Their Shot At Gold
Twenty USA Shooting Team members set off for London Olympic Games
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Years of preparation and months of anxiety have dwindled down to hours as the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games comes into view for 20 Olympic shooters.
Last Friday, each team member officially began their Olympic journeys, leaving friends, family and familiar shooting grounds behind. They united in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a six-day team training camp.
"This is such an exciting part of the Olympic journey,” 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Corey Cogdell of Eagle River, Alaska, said. “Every athlete has trained countless hours and sacrificed so much. We’re leaving the USA with all our hopes and dreams and knowing we have the power to makes those dreams a reality."
Denmark was the first opportunity the athletes to come together as a team since the final members were named on June 11. Athletes for each of shooting’s three disciplines have been together separately on different occasions in lead-up to the Games, but this was the first time the nation’s best marksmen and markswomen all got together in one place.
The USA Shooting Team secured exclusive use of a shooting range in Denmark for a pre-Olympic Games Training Camp, allowing them around-the-clock training in a distraction-free environment. In addition, the camp helped enhance team unity and camaraderie as well as solidify the athlete support structure. At one break, the members enjoyed a game of stickball.
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Prior to the 2008Olympic Games in Beijing, the USA Shooting Team conducted a similar camp in Korea. That move was considered a key factor behind the team’s successful showing with six medals, 12 top-5 finishes and two Olympic records.
Every four years the Shooting Sports emerge from the shadows and take their place among the 26 sports fighting for the attention of billions. Never before in the sport’s history has the prospect of doing so been within reach, but on Sunday, July 29, the eyes of the world will be tracking every heart-pounding shot fired by a California dreamer named Kim Rhode.
By 10 a.m. ET that day, Rhode could re-write the annuls of U.S. Olympic history by becoming the first American ever to win five Olympic medals in five consecutive Olympic Games in an individual sport.
Certainly Rhode highlights the Olympic shooting event overall as well as the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Shooting Teams, but the histories, intrigue and conviction among the 20 representatives of the USA Shooting Team portray a story all their own.
The active-duty soldiers, vets, naturalized citizens, students, fathers, husbands, wives, hunters, teachers, bartenders, cancer survivors and ranchers that comprise the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for Shooting represent a cross-section of America. They’ve dedicated their lives in the search for excellence in a sport where winning and losing is determined by fractions of an inch.
Two-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons of Browns Mills, N.J., describes this 2012 team as “hands down, the most gifted, talented and dedicated group of teammates that I’ve ever been a part of.”
“I am super excited to kick off the 2012 Olympic Games with some hard competition on the air rifle range,” said two-time Olympian Jamie Gray of Lebanon, Pa. “This is what I have worked for the past 13 years and I can't wait to get on the firing line and compete.
“This is a great time of the quadrennial, where our nation comes together and celebrates the wins and losses as a team, nothing is better than an Olympics! Go Team USA!”
Duplicating the six-medal performance from Beijing will be no easy task, considering that total had only been matched or exceeded in six of the 20 Olympic Games the U.S. has fielded a team. Also, the last time it happened was in the USSR-boycotted Games in Los Angeles 1984 and between then and 2008, USA Shooting Teams earned just a combined 11 medals.
There are no guarantees for success at the Olympic Games and when you prepare for that one defining moment and that moment requires absolute perfection, then anything is possible.
“It’s been a fast last few months as we finished selecting the team and continued our preparations,” National Rifle Coach Major Dave Johnson said. “We are following the same successful plan from 2008 —get the team together and settled in a similar to the venue camp location and then go into the Games ready to compete.
“Final checks and acclimatization are the focus points; some of the team logistics stuff is simply to make sure the athletes and staff know what to expect and how to overcome any challenges that may arise.”
Dr. Robert DuVall, director of SportsMedicine of Atlanta (SMA) says that the “shooting sports represent the essence of fine motor control in sports … few other sports require the refined motor skill and precision of shooting. Likewise, few other sports necessitate the combined physical and emotional aptitudes that are required for sport shooting success.”
Void of expectations and buoyed by the vigor of youth, Olympic rookie Amanda Furrer of Spokane, Wash., won’t hide from the opportunity.
“People ask me what my chances are of medaling at the Olympics,” she said via Twitter. “They're the same as everyone else's right now. We haven't even started.”