In July 2021, internet and social media users indulged in some mass, collective schadenfreude by enthusiastically sharing what appeared to be an embarrassing Twitter exchange labelled a chronic case of “mansplaining.”
Screenshots of the interaction appeared to show a Twitter user scolding a female competitive pistol shooter, Vitalina Batsarashkina, for her one-handed shooting stance, despite the fact that the stance is required by the rules of the sport, and Batsarashkina is an Olympic champion pistol shooter.
On Reddit, a July 29 post bore the caption, “The internet is full of know-it-alls that actually know very little,” along with what appeared to be a screenshot of a Twitter exchange in which one user posted a photograph of a female shooter aiming a pistol with one hand in her pocket, adding, “I am obsessed with the stance on this sharpshooter.” A different user appears to have replied: “That will have a huge recoil theres [sic] a reason why people tell you to hold the gun with both hands.” A third Twitter user replied, in turn: “You know she won gold right?”
On Facebook, users posted the same or similar screenshots en masse. The screenshot below shows just a selection of those posts, and demonstrates the popularity of the unfortunate exchange, on that platform:
While screenshots of the exchange were readily available online in July 2021, a search for the phrase “That will have a huge recoil theres a reason why people tell you to hold the gun with both hands” yielded no results on Twitter. However, Snopes can confirm that the tweet was posted on July 26, and the exchange was therefore authentic. As such, we are issuing a rating of “Correct Attribution.”
The Twitter user in question, @AintNathiel, posted the scolding message in response to @Blankzilla’s widely shared photograph of Batsarashkina, but @AintNathiel’s account was subsequently suspended, hence the original tweet is no longer available. However, a cached version of the exchange, which definitively establishes its authenticity, can be found here:
We asked Twitter why @AintNathiel’s account had been suspended, but we did not receive a response in time for publication.
The photograph itself is also authentic. Although it was shared widely in the context of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, it was actually taken during the Rio Olympics, on Aug. 7, 2016, by Getty photographer Sam Greenwood. The original can be found here and bears the following caption:
Vitalina Batsarashkina of Russia competes during the the Women’s 10m Air Pistol event during the shooting competition on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Shooting Centre on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Batsarashkina would go on to win a silver medal in the 10m air pistol final in 2016. In Tokyo, five years later, she dominated the women’s pistol shooting events, winning gold in both the 10m air pistol and 25m pistol events and setting Olympic records in both. The 24-year-old also won a silver medal in the 10m mixed team final, reportedly becoming the first woman ever to win three shooting medals at a single Olympic games. Her victory in the 25m pistol final can be watched below:
In light of those facts, it’s fair to assume that Batsarashkina knows her way around a shooting course, and knows exactly how to handle an air pistol — and how not to handle one. In any event, the one-handed stance shown in @Blankzilla’s widely shared tweet was not a style choice on the part of Batsarashkina, but rather something all competitors are required to use.
Chapter 8.7.1 of the rules of the sport — set out by the International Shooting Sport Federation and available here — states that in all pistol shooting disciplines:
The athlete must stand free, without any artificial or other support, with both feet and/or shoes completely within the firing point. The pistol must be held and fired with one (1) hand only. The wrist must be visibly free of support. [Emphasis is added].
The one-handed stance is therefore a universal requirement for all shooters. Some competitors place their non-shooting hand in their pocket (as Batsarashkina did in the picture in question) while others choose to suspend it in a strap around their waist, as shown in the photograph below, which was taken during the women’s 25m pistol competition in Tokyo: