Paralympic Quota Opportunities Await Team in Croatia

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 7, 2015)

At the USA Shooting National Championships, John Joss finished eighth on the first day of competition in the Open Men's Prone Rifle event.

The season continues for the 10 Paralympic athletes of the USA Shooting Team at the next International Paralympic Committee World Cup in Osijek, Croatia July 10 – 14, where athletes will be looking to grab the all-important Paralympic quotas necessary to ensure maximum participation in the 2016 Paralympic Games. 

The 10 athletes competing in Croatia include rifle competitors McKenna Dahl (Arlington, Washington), Nick Beach (Dresden, Ohio), Israel Del Toro (Cibolo, Texas), John Joss (United States Army Marksmanship Unit/Corsicana, Texas), and newcomer Ernesto Aquino (Hawthorne, California). Pistol athletes will include Mike Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin), Shaun Tichenor (USAMU/Brainerd, Minnesota), Len Esparza (Cupertino, California), Kerry Morris (Grand Prairie, Texas), and newcomer Tricia Downing (Denver, Colorado).

Downing isn’t a newcomer to elite adaptive athletics as she has competed internationally in triathlons and rowing prior to shooting.  She is the first female wheelchair racer to complete an Ironman Triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run). She will be shooting pistol in P2 (Women’s 10M Air Pistol SH1) and P3. Aquino will make his World Cup debut as well in Croatia. A U.S. Marine Corp veteran and multi-medal winner in the Warrior Games – including gold in 2014 in Prone Rifle – Aquino will compete against Dahl in both Rifle SH2 events: R4 (Mixed 10M Air Rifle Standing) and R5 (Mixed 10M Air Rifle Prone). 

After the USA Shooting Team’s recent performance in Hanover, athletes continue to look for the gold as they continue into the World Cup season. In Hanover, USAMU’s Joss just missed making the finals in the R6 (50M Mixed Prone Rifle) event, but comes into Croatia with momentum after the recent USA Shooting National Championships in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he finished eighth in the Open Men’s Prone final on Day One. Another strong performance in Hanover came from Tagliapietra, who finished with bronze after shooting the second-highest qualification score of 569 in the P3 (Mixed 25M Sport Pistol) event.  

This World Cup will be the first time since the 2014 World Championships in which athletes have the opportunity to earn quota places for the 2016 Paralympic  Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A quota is essentially a country’s ticket to compete in the Games. Already having claimed quota places are Dahl and Tagliapietra, who are looking to add to their valuable competition experience in Croatia. While the individuals themselves haven’t qualified yet for Rio, the quota spots help in the ongoing process of building depth in the USA Shooting Paralympic program that began after the 2008 Paralympic Games and had just two qualifiers in 2012. The two earned quota spots are in events not contested in 2012 by U.S. Paralympic Team members.

In addition to Croatia, quotas will also be up for grabs at the World Cups in Sydney, Australia in September and Fort Benning, Georgia in November.

“This is the first match for a quota slot this year,” Tichenor said. “The key is to not put this match on a pedestal and rely on our process to be successful.”

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