Two blasts of a shotgun, a split second apart. Two clay discs dissolve into pink dust. And the United Arab Emirates has just won its first Olympic gold medal. The date is August 17, 2004 at the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre. To watch Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Hasher Al Maktoum in action is to understand what it takes to become an Olympic champion. Disc after disc fly into the air, all obliterated by the sheikh's eagle eye.
Sheikh Ahmed was 41 when he took the gold medal at the men's double trap competition in Athens. A keen hunter from childhood, he only started shooting as a competitive sport at the age of 34.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Sheikh Ahmed finished a disappointing 23rd. There was to be no repeat in Athens. His qualification round set a new Olympic record, with the contest ending in a 10-point win over his nearest challengers from Sweden and China. A heart condition has prevented Sheikh Ahmed from competing in London this year, but he will be there as a coach, hoping to bring his golden touch to the UAE's shooting team.