British Marksmen Malcolm Cooper, 40, and Alister Allan, 44, have spent many years together shooting rifles and scraping themselves off barroom floors. As they demonstrated last week in Seoul, they've gotten jolly good at both.
Cooper, who owns a firearms supply company in Portsmouth, England, became the first Olympic shooter ever to win back-to-back gold medals in the men's small-bore rifle, three-position event. He outshot Allan, who took home the silver, 1,279.3 to 1,275.6 (out of a possible 1,310). It was Cooper's second straight Olympic triumph over Allan, who finished third in '84.
In the L.A. Games, the men's three-position event consisted of three 40-shot rounds—one prone, one kneeling, one standing. Best score wins. Fair, but boring, said the IOC. So in 1986 the International Shooting Union introduced a fourth round for the top eight qualifiers: 10 shots, all taken while standing.
The No. 1 qualifier going into the final round in Seoul was Allan, who last year quit his job as a leisure-wear rep in Kettering, England, to train for the Olympics. Allan's total was 1,181. Cooper, his friend and nemesis, was one point back. The final shootoff favored Cooper. "The standing position is my weakest and Malcolm's strongest," said Allan later. "I knew I'd have to have the round of my life to keep the gold."
It wasn't to be. Allan got a 9.2 (out of a possible 11) on his first shot and an 8.2 on his third. His 94.6 total was the worst of the eight finalists, and he got the silver by only .6 over the U.S.S.R.'s Kirill Ivanov, who closed fast with a 102.
Cooper shot a consistent, if not outstanding, 99.3. But consistency is the most important element in winning shooting medals. "I think we can rightfully say that Malcolm Cooper is the best shooter in the world," said Allan.
Cooper and Allan celebrated their medals at a pub in the heart of Seoul with dozens of fellow Brits, other shooters and sundry other merrymakers. According to Allan, the group was "scraped off the floor" and rolled back into the Olympic Village around four o'clock the next morning. "And we'll probably do it again tonight and the next night and the next," he said.
Cooper said this Olympic win felt "different than in 1984. Then, I just wanted a medal. This time I wanted to be the first person to win twice. And I don't think I'll be trying for Barcelona."
That statement caused Allan's eyebrows to rise. "You're not?" he said. "Then I am for sure."
As in L.A., Cooper was No. 1 with a bullet.