This time next week the London Olympic Games won’t be in full swing, they’ll be winding down. Hopefully by next Monday evening, United States’ shooters will have pushed all our shooting sports, rifle, pistol, shotgun, air rifle and archery – into the spotlight. It’s no exaggeration to say the our teams include the top-tier shooters in every discipline. What actually happens won’t be determined by previous performances- each Olympic games takes on its own personality.
In the light of yet another tragedy in Colorado, the London Olympic Games might be a key part of some very-much needed positive PR for shooting.
We’re not to the point that we’re “dis-inviting” our shooting athletes from joining teammates at events (that happened in Canada where a pair of shooters have been told they can’t stand beside their peers in the Ontario Summer Games next month), but it’s been too-easy lately for some to reach the the illogical conclusion that since guns are capable of doing bad things all gun owners must be bad people.
More than any other sport I’ve ever covered, the superstars of shooting sports are anything but bad people. In fact, they’re more than willing to introduce others to their sports -and provide expert assistance. They’re unfailingly polite, patient occasionally to a fault, and more than willing to endure the seemingly-endless stories other shooters insist on telling them.
This year Kim Rhode is “the girl” for shooting. A medal means she’ll become the first United States Olympic athlete to medal in five consecutive Games – enter some pretty rarified air-even for the Olympics.
Kim’s in the thick of things right off the jump, and we’ll know by mid-morning this Sunday (July 29) if she’s reached her goal. Being the first United States athlete to medal in five consecutive games will guarantee much-needed publicity.
Even the most hard-core anti-gun person will be hard pressed to say anything that would diminish her accomplishments or her unfailingly-positive personality. To say I’m pulling for Kim would be an understatement. I’m pulling for every American athlete- I’m cheering for Kim.
How big would a fifth medal in five games be for USA Shooting? Since 1986 the United States has collected 103 medals – total (47 gold, 28 silver, 28 bronze). Kim has four of that total, already making her the stuff of Olympic shooting legend much like shooting-icon and team inspiration Lones Wigger.
In archery, it’s no exaggeration to say that Brady Ellison is also considered the one to beat to the top of the medal stand when it comes to recurve bows, but all the USA Archery team members are capable of taking positions on atop the stands as well.
Ellison’s out to prove that his twenty-seventh place finish in Beijing in 2008 wasn’t the definition of his career, but the turning point. Since then, he’s been virtually unbeatable – and carries that momentum into the London.
Teammates Miranda Leek, Jennifer Nichols, Jake Kaminski, Jacob Wukie, and Khatuna Lorig aren’t pushovers, either. So don’t be surprised to see any of our extremely talented archers on the medal stands before the competition on the Lord’s Cricket Grounds.
US Women’s Archery Team getting in last-minute practice yesterday. Their competition begins-today. USA Archery photo.
Leek, incidentally, is only 19 years old and has only just moved up from the juniors program. She, along with Jacob Wukie and Jake Kaminski are first-time Olympians. Ellison’s there for the second time, Jennifer Nichols for the second time, and they’re being coached through the Olympic jitters by four-time veteran Khatuna Lorig. She’s told them “it’s just another tournament”.
Olympic shooting – especially with firearms – is one of those sports that -unfortunately- only crosses our collective consciousness every four years or so. That’s why many of us have no idea what a Pardini, TTOX, Morini, or Feinwerkbau is- or does (they’re all Olympic pistol makerss). We readily associate Rhode/Perazzi or Hancock/Beretta, but that’s because shotgun sports are far more mainline shooting than, for example, Free Pistol. Just as an FYI, “free” doesn’t refer to the costs, it refers to the fact that the diminutive .22 caliber short pistol used for that competition is “free” of any equipment restrictions. It’s the “race gun” or “Open” category of Olympic shooting.
Another challenge to popularizing Olympic shooting- as in any precision shooting sport -is that some competitions can run as long as three hours. Not three hours of banging and clanging; we’re talking three hours of precision shooters taking time to still themselves between shots. That “still” thing can involve anything from sitting and reading the paper between shots to deep meditation. Neither are crowd builders.
Olympic shooters cover a ton of demographic area, too. From 19-year old archer Miranda Leek to seasoned veteran shooter Eric Uptagrafft and Paralympian Eric Hollen (both 46).
We also have a husband and wife team Eric and Sandra Uptagrafft (they’ll celebrate their anniversary in London) and what I term a mixed-doubles pair: Matt Emmons of Team USA and his wife, Katy. Katy will once again be competing for the Czech Republic FYI, the story of how they came to meet and marry is definitely the stuff that romance movies are made of.
Since the first shooting competitions in 1896, things have certainly changed. There are no longer live pigeons (1900 Games only) or running deer targets. They’ve been eliminated, as have uber-realistic targets like the dueling targets. They weren’t just humanoid, they wore frock coats and the bullseye was the throat. Nothing resembles a living target -and the bulls-eye is most frequently referred to as “X”.
Perhaps the most profound change for the London Games is the speed of information. More than ever before, these games will be instantaneously reported-whether you’re near a television or not. We’re not pretending to be the source for your most up-to-the-second information. In fact, we’ll be following the various live streams from NBC sports www.nbcolympics.com/liveextra websites www.teamusa.org, www.issf-sports.org, www.london2012.com, www.olympic.org and www.usashooting.org like the rest of you. We’ll also be augmenting that information with direct communications with the athletes and coaches, so we will have some insight into the back stories from London.
Here’s a few resources you might not have in your 2012 London Games toolkit:
Official London 2012 Results App
NBC Olympics App
Facebook.com/usparalympics (those games begin August 30)
And don’t forget Twitter. You can follow the action there at a pace that’s determined to either drive your office or bedmates nuts if you assign a sound to the various “tweets”.
And don’t forget the young shooters’ feeds:
Beginning tomorrow (Saturday, July 28) through Monday, August 6, many of the eyes of the world will be focused on our Olympic athletes. For shooting enthusiasts, twenty-one United States athletes will be competing in 13 of the 15 shooting events (we have no quota slots in Men’s Trap or Women’s 10M Air Pistol) -and their chances look as good-or better-than they have in quite a long time.
We don’t want to put performance pressure on them; but we certainly want to put pride in their performances- even before they fire their first shot- behind them.