USA Shooting Awards Discipline Distinction to Tagliapietra, Sowash & Sanderson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (December 16, 2014)

USA Shooting is recognizing three outstanding athletes in the respective disciplines of Paralympic, Pistol and Rifle for outstanding performances in 2014.  Overall winners Josh Richmond and Brandy Drozd were recognized Monday. Today, Mike Tagliapietra (Paralympic), Keith Sanderson (Pistol) and Amy Sowash (Rifle) are being recognized for distinction within their own individual disciplines. 

Mike Tagliapietra, 2014 Paralympic Athlete of the Year

Queried about his favorite quote, Mike Tagliapietra provided this in his bio from Ella Wheeler Wilcox: "There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” It’s a fitting quote that speaks to not only where he’s been but where he hopes to go.

Where he’s going was made a little clearer with a 2014 campaign that earned him Athlete of the Year honors in the Paralympic discipline.  As a pistol athlete, Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) made three finals at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup in Ft. Benning, finishing fourth, sixth and seventh respectively.

Shooting in the P3 25m Mixed Sport Pistol event at the IPC World Championships, Tagliapietra finished fifth overall in qualifying out of 39 competitors but would have to settle for an eighth-place finish after being eliminated during the semifinal round. More importantly though, Tagliapietra earned a valuable Paralympic quota spot for the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, joining rifle shooter McKenna Dahl in achieving that goal in 2014.  

Tagliapietra has been shooting competitively since December 2011 after finding the sport once again following a 2003 car accident that would paralyze him from his mid-back down. He was a competitive wheelchair racer before committing fully to the shooting sports. 

Driven beyond belief and not satisfied with any result that doesn’t include something metallic, the pursuit continues for him. Given this year’s results, he now assumes a lead role as the face of the Paralympic program.  With that comes hope he’ll lead a Rio 2016 push as pronounced as the quote that adorns his bio.

Keith Sanderson, 2014 Pistol Athlete of the Year

The strength of USA Shooting’s pistol program lies in the quick-paced accuracy of its Rapid Fire Pistol program, as witnessed by the last two Athletes of the Year in the discipline. Last year, it was Emil Milev and in 2014, Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado).

Sanderson claimed those honors by virtue of three straight World Cup finals appearances as well as the gold medal at the 2014 World Cup USA. There the 39-year old athlete climbed upon the highest step of the podium with 33 hits in the final, beating Germany's 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Christian Reitz (second with 26 hits) and China's first time participant Chen Kehan.  Shaking off the effects of an August 2013 arm surgery to fix a forearm issue he’d had since 2010, Sanderson was back atop an ISSF podium for the first time since 2009 in the Beijing World Cup.

Also in 2014, Sanderson claimed national titles in both Rapid Fire and Standard Pistol events while also finishing second at the Championship of the Americas. The two-time Olympian Sanderson last one Athlete of the Year honors in 2009, the last year he was healthy before 2014.

Sanderson is a member of Army's World Class Athlete Program and is currently living in Colorado Springs and training full-time at the Olympic Training Center. 

Amy Sowash, 2014 Rifle Athlete of the Year

Amy Sowash is known for her intensity, drive and edge.  She’s not here to mess around and with an Olympic spot on the line, those qualities will only sharpen over the next year.

If 2014 was any indication, Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky) is ready to take the stage. The proof was in her results as she shot with the greatest consistency of any rifle athlete this season highlighted by a national title and several close calls. The payoff was earning 2014 Athlete of the Year honors in the discipline.

She shook off troubling lower back problems that have plagued her since before a 2012 Olympic run and joined forces with 2004 Olympian Brian Beaman for coaching support and counsel.  The pistol Olympian helps her by breaking down shot process and fundamentals while working with her on mental approach. These ingredients, combined with competitive genetics, are paying huge dividends. 

Her body of work this past season includes some near misses that would have turned a good report card, into outstanding. With a gallant last stand at World Championships, Sowash came close competing in the Three-Position Rifle event.   Her final 20 shots standing were better than any person in the 66-person field with just five shots landing outside the bullseye (10-ring). Still, it wasn’t good enough given the high scores shot amidst an almost still range and left her one point and five center-10s out of a possible spot in the finals where she could have battled for one of the five Olympic quota spots available in the event.  She’d settle for 14th-place.

At the 2014 World Cup Finals, Championship of the Americas and World Cup USA, she finished just outside of the medals in fourth place.   

The plan all along has been for Sowash to pursue Olympic glory. She systematically chose this sport because of the path it offered.  With Rio in Sight, Sowash hopes that 2014 is just the springboard  she needs to realizing an intense, but reachable, dream.

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