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One For the History Books
by Jim Shepherd
The birds on the South Carolina marsh had to think I'd lost my mind yesterday morning. After quietly watching them do the things that birds do for over an hour, I suddenly jumped away from my camera, did a fist pump, and whooped like a madman.
Twitter feeds had confirmed the results of an Olympic event I was too nervous to watch online: Kim Rhode had achieved her goal of becoming the first American athlete to win a medal in five consecutive games.
And she didn't just win a medal, she broke 99 of 100 targets in the finals, equaled the Olympic record and will be bringing home the gold medal. When quizzed about her secret, the El Monte, California native didn't hesitate: "practice. Lots and lots of practice. I have worked for this one."
Despite the fact that NBC Sports didn't break into their regular coverages with the news, I agree with USA Shooting's description of the event as "the biggest single day in US shooting history."
What does it mean to the shooting sports? Plenty. First, it was a happening that even the anti-shooting suits at NBC couldn't totally ignore. Despite the quiet lobbying of several major sponsors, NBC has again shunted shooting sports into the shadows.
It's also a great motivator for all the young shooters in all the scholastic shooting programs. With USA Archery's shooters bringing home the first medal of the games (the silver in Men's Team competition) and Rhode nailing down her spot in Olympic history, there may be even more interest in today's youth to get into shooting.
That's gotta drive the anti-everything groups completely crazy.
Hopefully, the already-indisputable success of USA Shooting and Archery at the London Games will translate into more funding for both. After all, the USOC pays for performance. Today, both those teams are performing - and they're bringing home some shiny hardware to drive that point home.
Over the past three Olympic Games, I've watched and criticized when our shooters failed to perform. I've also watched the programs steadily improve.
Now, it's time for each of us to step up and support Olympic shooting. And that doesn't mean just sending money (although I'm not going to discourage that). It's time the industry took a look at creating some additional Olympic-capable shooting facilities around the country. Having facilities means world-class events will give those new locales a hard look. Bringing international shooting competitions will give the rest of us more chances to connect with Olympic-style shooting.
Granted, not all the news from London is of medals won. In 10 Meter Air Rifle, US shooters Jamie Gray and Texas Christian University's Sara Scherer, the one-two finishers in the U.S. competition, both made the finals. But China's Yi Siling claimed the first gold medal of the London Games. Sylwa Bogacka of Poland and Yi's teammate Yu Dan taking silver and bronze, respectively. Gray and Scherer finished fourth and seventh.
Their teammate Sandra Uptagrafft finished well out of medal contention (28th) in Women's 10 Meter Air Pistol. Uptagrafft admitted that Olympic jitters got her. "Once I hit the match button, it hit me that I am at the Olympic Games," Uptagrafft said, "and it kind of took me out of my rhythm. It took me a while to settle down and refocus. That's what I was able to do on my last two strings. It's really disappointing because I knew that this was going to happen."
In other Olympic Shooting competition, United States Men's 10 Meter Air Pistol shooters Daryl Szarenski and 2008 Bronze Medalist Jason Turner failed to advance out of the qualifying rounds. Szarenski finished 23rd; Turner finished 34th. Turner's games are now over; Szarenski will compete in the Men's 50 Meter free pistol event August 3.
It was a considerably happier state of affairs over at the archery venue. There, the United States Men's team took home a silver medal - the first United States medal of the London Games - as top-ranked archer Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wulke began moving up in the team rankings from the first 18 arrows.
In the end, it came down to two arrows.
With Italy and the United States tied at 209-209, Ellison fired first, hitting just out of the 10 ring for a 9. That put the gold medal directly on the shoulders of Italy's Michele Frangilli. As Frangilli let fly and the shouts of "Viva Italia!" began.
For a team that was never ranked higher than fourth going into the Games, it was validation that the last six years of living and working together has its rewards.
The Women's Team of Khatuna Lohrig, Miranda Leek and Jennifer Nichols didn't fare as well, finishing in sixth place. Korea, China and Japan went first, second and third, respectively, with Korea taking its fourth consecutive Women's title.
All in all, a strong start to the London Games.
Republished from The Outdoor Wire.