World Champions Richmond & Drozd Named 2014 Athletes of the Year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (December 15, 2014)

In a year that included historic results for USA Shooting’s shotgun program, it is only fitting that the two athletes that earned this season’s biggest prize be honored as USA Shooting’s Athletes of the Year.  Double Trap World Champion Josh Richmond and Skeet World Champion Brandy Drozd are this year’s honorees.  Richmond and Drozd were recognized Monday with the discipline athletes of the year for Rifle, Pistol and Paralympic set for release Tuesday.

Josh Richmond, 2014 Athlete of the Year

On September 13, recognition so bold as Athlete of the Year would not have been in the realm of possibility for U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania), a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. But, one day later, fate would change when Richmond set aside months of frustration and doubt and climbed to the top of the shotgun world yet again. 

All the glory, the accolades, the hype and the magazine cover shoot, those are nice.  But to really distinguish yourself in sport, there are days you just have to show up to work and prove that your one of the best. Richmond won a world title in Double Trap and did just that.

It speaks to Richmond’s prowess in the sport when two World Cup silver medals (Tucson & Almaty) and a fourth-place finish at Nationals might be considered a down year. But he admitted as much after Granada. “I told the coaches (Todd Graves and Dwayne Weger) that I was stumbling. I had two months where I couldn’t find anything and nothing worked.  I was putting maximum rounds down range but was really disappointed with my shooting.  I had no confidence.”

But he discovered something during an early practice round when no bird came out of the bunker on one of his calls. He felt it instantly. “I was pushing the gun really bad and Todd and I both looked at each other and decided that we were going to let the targets come up and then chase after them. As complex of a game as this is, that’s the only thing I needed to switch.”

Richmond became World Champion for the third time, repeating the title he won in 2010 and earning the USA Shooting Team’s first Olympic quota spot in the process. He won a Junior World title back in 2005.  The performance also ensured that the world’s foremost Double Trap team of Richmond, Glenn Eller and Jeff Holguin would continue its remarkable run of glory as the world’s foremost Double Trap team. To close out his year, Richmond finished fourth at the World Cup Finals in Gabala, Azerbaijan.  

Richmond is now a two-time recipient of the award having done so previously in 2010 after also winning a world title.

Brandy Drozd, 2014 Athlete of the Year

Distinction in the skeet discipline is vexing at best. Distinguishing oneself doesn’t come easy when you compete alongside the reigning two-time Olympic champion Vincent Hancock and a shotgun matriarch in Kim Rhode.  Good thing for Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas), distinction finds you when you work hard enough and accomplish much. 

That’s what happened this year as the 20-year-old Drozd rose up from relative junior obscurity and claimed her spot among a prominent mix. For such, she’s the 2014 USA Shooting Athlete of the Year. She began the year by earning a spot on the World Team and subsequent World Cups during Spring Selection.  She then went to Tucson and finished fourth, just missing a medal following a shoot-off with Kim Rhode.  She’d again lose a shoot-off to Rhode in World Cup action in Munich, but this time it was in the gold-medal match as she claimed the second World Cup medal of her career following a bronze-medal in 2012. In a preview of things to come, she’d earn a gold medal at the Spain Grand Prix in Granada, defeating teammate Haley Dunn. 

Early season success did much to raise the confidence of this Texas native, but so too did work ethic, composure beyond her years, and steely determination. Those ingredients came together nicely this September on her way to winning the World Championships. Drozd beat Great Britain's Elena Allen to claim the title and also an Olympic quota spot for the USA Shooting Team in this event. Drozd earned the gold medal by defeating Allen 14 hits to 13 and thus adding to a season that has shown her true potential. 

Nobody has been happier to see it than Hancock. “I’ve shot with her for several years now and I’ve seen her coming up and I knew that she was going to be something special,” Hancock said, “just the way that she goes out there and competes — it reminds me a lot of me. It’s a lot of fun to watch somebody when they’re on top of the world like that. Talking to her, you would never know that she is such a fiery competitor. She comes out to beat absolutely everybody, guys included. She has to up her game for Kim (Rhode), especially — all of our girls do — and that goes to show how good our skeet program is getting in the U.S.”

Rhode, rightfully so, will be the marquee storyline for the USA Shooting Team as Rio approaches. But in her own event and with the added incentive of sending two women to the Olympic Games in both shotgun disciplines for the first time, a new story has emerged in Drozd. After a brilliant 2014 campaign, the eyes of Texas, America and world are upon her.