On Edge with Amy Sowash

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (August 15, 2014)

Like all the good ones, rifle athlete Amy Sowash has it. It’s called edge.  With it, the expectation is Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games.  Without it, well, she’s no different than anyone else.     

“I think it’s important to work super hard and be super intense,” she admits when asked about the fiery disposition she shows on the range. “These are skills I value.  Sometimes when you look at competitors, they lose sight of the fact that there is that intensity or edge, but that you’re not like that away from it all. I think that there’s that misperception about me in that way.  I’m on a mission when I’m on the range, but off it, I’m normal.” 

The Olympics have been a lifelong pursuit for Amy.  For a lot of athletes in shooting, they got into the sport only to learn there was an Olympic path. For Amy, she chose shooting specifically because she knew it was a way to get to the Olympics. 

One thing though, you still have to know how to shoot.  With that, she’s come a long way since plinking cans off her family’s back porch growing up in Richmond, Kentucky.  But an Olympic dream surely would have died had it not been for University of Kentucky Rifle head coach Harry Mullins taking a flyer on a junior club shooter occupying his Wildcat range.  Mullins and his Kentucky Wildcat program, then ranked No. 2 in the country, risked a lot when they decided to let Sowash walk-on in 2003.  

That was the break she needed.  After that, the rest was in Sowash’s hands and has relished every opportunity since.  She made the National Team during Fall Selection in 2006 and has been a consistent presence since. She’s just missed making the Olympic Team each of the last two quads but she’s got a feeling this time could be different. Time away from her gun in 2012 helped convince her that she’s comfortable with whatever happens going forward. 

“I’m going to work my butt off and try super hard to make that team but I can’t control anyone else,” she acknowledges. “Other people have the ability to shoot better than you on any given day.  I needed to be comfortable with that. I really came back because I really hadn’t peaked out.  I’m pretty good a lot of the time.  I also felt like there was a whole other level inside me that I hadn’t even come close to finding and if that puts me on the team, that would be awesome.  If I peak and give everything there is to give and push myself as far as I can and that doesn’t put me on the team, then that’s okay too.  It can’t be do or die.” 

Aside from greater maturity and perspective, Sowash is holding on to one big trump card she hopes will push her closer to her Olympic dream.  It’s something she stole from her greatest confidant, 2004 Olympian Brian Beaman, a pistol shooter by trade who now hopes to simplify a discipline Sowash readily admits she over-complicates all too often. 

That piece of advice has been to perfect the process better than anyone else in the world. “I’ve worked really hard recently on set-up and squeeze,” says Sowash. “Doing that has taken me to another level, a level I’d been searching for.” 

Combining improved shot process with an already high work ethic, motivation and desire, could be just the mix she’s be looking for as Olympic qualification begins. 

Few athletes within the USA Shooting ranks can break down her sport and teach better than Sowash. When asked what the biggest key to executing better shots was, she replies with the familiar adage of squeezing the trigger.  

“I think you have to squeeze the trigger.  It sounds really simple.  But what that really means, is that if you can’t really squeeze the trigger and squeeze through that hold, then you’ve set something up wrong.  If you can’t squeeze the trigger without jerking on it, then you need to work on your emotional feelings whether at the range or in the field. “If you can truly just let it sit there and squeeze the trigger, you’ve done enough things right that it’s going to make a lot happen for you.  In my mind, it’s at the very top of the pyramid of skills necessary to be good.” 

Pretty simple advice for someone who admits how extremely difficult her discipline, particularly three-position rifle, is; something outside observers may not understand. 

“It is ridiculously hard to shoot three-position rifle. You don’t see ties and there’s a huge gap in skill separating the truly elite from the pretty darn good. How hard do you have to work to really get to the upper crust?  I don’t know, I think I work pretty hard and I’m not there.  Obviously harder than I do.”    

“It’s like hitting a hole in one on every par 3,” she adds.  “It’s similar to setting up in a yoga position with someone putting a barrier around you that’s a millimeter from your skin and you’re not allowed to touch it with any part of your body.  Be so still in your yoga pose that you can’t touch any part of that barrier in any direction at any time, and then do that for an hour on top of it.” 

As one of the premier female rifle shooters in the country, getting more women involved in her sport is always top of mind.  She reflects back on her first shots she took as a child, shots that brought her closer to her dad, siblings and family.  Every shot thereafter, brings her just a little closer to an Olympic dream.  For others, she hopes the shots they take teach them independence, empowerment and fun.    

“I love to see all women get involved in the sport.  For young girls, it might be one of the only sports where you can be better than all the boys.  We’re built physically to be better at this sport.  That idea is really neat for a young girl to hear.  And for older woman, most often, it’s empowering.  You seem them do well and immediately you see them light up, ‘Oh, I can do this.  I’m kind of a bad ass.’”

Categories: Press Releases, 2014 ISSF World Championships