By Patrick Johnston
LONDON (Reuters) - The United States Olympic shooting team distanced themselves on Thursday from the Colorado killings at a movie premiere last week, complaining their sport was the victim of sweeping generalization.
In their first news conference since arriving in London for the Games, the team were inevitably asked about their thoughts on the shootings where 12 people were killed and 58 wounded after a gunman opened fire at a screening of the latest Batman movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora last week.
Twice Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode said she felt the sport, which has been included in every Games bar two since the first Athens event in 1896, was being unfairly targeted.
"We knew we were going to get asked questions on this... our event as a sport is completely different from an isolated incident as that," the 33-year-old told reporters at Olympic Park on Thursday.
"That young man was obviously very disturbed and it is very upsetting for us.
"Unfortunately the sad thing is our sport is very generalized and that's a mistake that is made very often that the lines get blurred with news and what is going on."
Rhode is competing in the women's skeet and women's trap and is aiming to become the first American to win five Olympic medals in five consecutive Games in an individual sport.
The Californian native who hunts and does a lot of public speaking said it was down to her and the other 19 members of the American Olympic team to educate during the Games.
"The sport actually teaches responsibility, discipline, focus, respect, things about the outdoors and that is obviously what our job is here at the Olympics.
"Teaching kids, youths and families about that so it's two very separate things in my opinion and very sad that we get generalized into that."
Bulgarian-born Emil Milev, who will be competing in the men's rapid fire pistol, echoed his team mate's views.
"It is not the gun that kills it is the person that kills," the 1996 Atlanta Games silver medalist told reporters.
"He would find a way to do harm even if he wasn't able to get his hands on firearm.
"Firearms used in general to do sports should not be connected to a person like that."
(Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Pritha Sarkar)