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If he books his place at the Rio 2016 Games, Slovenian Rajmond Debevec will also guarantee himself a place in one of the most exclusive groups in Olympic sport. A winner of three Olympic medals in shooting, the 51-year-old would compete his ninth Games, just short of the current record-holder, Canadian equestrian rider Ian Millar, who has taken part in 10 editions and is still going.
An Olympian for 30 years, since the Los Angeles 1984 Games, when he represented the former Yugoslavia, Debevec would join two other Europeans on nine Olympic appearances: Latvian shooter Afanasijs Kuzmins, who remains an active competitor, and Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl, now retired.
Despite all his experience, Debevec is still taken aback by the Games’ grandeur.
“I still feel overwhelmed by the Olympic Games,” he said. “It’s a great pleasure to compete on equal terms with younger and very talented shooters. I hope to experience this sensation once again in Rio.”
If he achieves his desire and comes to Brazil, at the age of 53, Debevec will return to the National Shooting Centre, where he competed in the 2011 World Military Games.
“I was impressed by the fact that the shooting venue was ready so far in advance. This makes it possible to carry out various tests and allows the organisers to listen to the opinions of athletes, coaches and other specialists, and to correct even the most minor of details in order to have the best possible event. The venue was already at a very high level in 2011 and I expect it to be one of the best Olympic shooting ranges in which I have competed in my long career,” said Debevec, who has also won five world championship medals.
Debevec, centre, on the podium at Sydney 2000, where he won gold (Photo: Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
Debevec’s first opportunity to ensure he qualifies for the Rio 2016 Games will be in September of this year, at the world championships in Granada, Spain, at which 64 Olympic places will be up for grabs.
“Guaranteeing qualification at the world championships in Granada would be great, but it’s a very hard mission. Advance qualification would guarantee a less arduous preparation and the possibility of more efficient planning to reach my peak at the 2016 Games. But if I don’t get a place this year, I will have new opportunities in 2015,” he said, referring to the continental and world qualifiers to be held next season.
After representing Yugoslavia at two Olympic Games, Debevec debuted for Slovenia at Barcelona 1992 in great style, by setting a world record in the semi-finals that would last for 20 years in the 50-metre rifle three positions event. He won a gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Games and then won bronze at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the latter medal coming in the 50-metre rifle prone event.