Olympic Shooting: Air Rifle RECAP / Sport Pistol PREVIEW

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (August 8, 2016)

There was just one Olympic shooting competition featuring U.S. Olympic Shooting Team members Monday, and it was Men’s Air Rifle with Olympic newcomers Lucas Kozeniesky and Dan Lowe. 

Both fought through the jitters and pressure expected when competing in your first Olympic competition. 

Kozeniesky (Fairfax, Virginia) was pleased with his performance overall finishing 21st with a score of 622.3.  He didn’t try and savor the moment as he was the first one to complete his 60 qualification shots, his Olympic moment lasting approximately 41 minutes.  It was long enough to impress upon him a 2020 vision and a hopeful run at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.   

“It was pretty cool,” said Kozeniesky about competing on the Olympic stage. “Given my preparation, it’s similar to what I expected, and I was ready for the type of pressure I felt,” Kozeniesky said. “My hold wasn’t as pretty as it usually is and there’s a couple things that went wrong, but overall it was a great experience. Shooting a 622 in my third international competition at the Olympics, I’m pretty proud of myself.” 

Kozeniesky heads back to North Carolina State University to close out his rifle career with the Wolfpack Rifle program that has taken tremendous strides since Kozeniesky’s arrival four years ago.  The sport management major became the first Wolfpack All-American since 1975 while earning an individual selection the NCAA Championships. 

Read what the News & Observer recap from Kozeniesky’s match. 

U.S. Army Specialist Lowe (Olympia, Washington) left hoping that his sighters (pre-match practice shots) could have counted and a greater realization for the need of a stronger mental game when shooting the biggest match on the planet.  Lowe, who competes as part of the U.S. Army's  Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), had it going in his warm-up shots shooting a 105.7 and 106.2 in each of the 10-shot strings he fired downrange. But, once the match started he couldn’t find that form again with his highest string a 105.0 sandwiched in with three strings in the 102s. He would settle for a score of 620 and a 34th-place finish overall. 

“It was a lot of pressure.  I did some of the best shooting in my life during my sighters.  That was me figuring it all out. And then I click start and I haven’t found everything I need mentally yet to do the same performance in the match.  I need to start focusing on the performance and not the result. I’ve been working a lot it these past six months, but I’m not quite there.” 

The 23-year-old now tries to gleam lessons from today’s match and apply them to the Three-Position Rifle competition he competes in Sunday to close out the shooting events in Rio.  

On how his Olympic experience is going overall, Lowe stated: “It’s such an amazing environment to be surrounded for a month by the best athletes in the world, it can’t help but pull you up a little bit.” 

Team USA’s Matt Emmons has company as one the world’s best all-around rifle shooters, as demonstrated by Italian friend Niccolo Campriani in winning the gold today.  A silver medalist in the event from 2012 and the reigning Three-Position Olympic champion, who competed collegiately at West Virginia University and the same school as Women’s Air Rifle gold medalist Ginny Thrasher, Campriani set the Olympic record on his way to earning a third Olympic medal.  He becomes just the 15th person to do so in the history of the rifle event, joining Emmons.  He has a chance Friday in Prone to do what only one other man, Carl Osburn, has done and that’s win four individual medals in the sport of rifle when he did it competing in the 1912, 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games.  Emmons could join that rarefied air as well with a medal in Three-Position on Sunday in which Campriani is also competing in.  

Earning a silver medal was Ukraine’s Serhiy Kulish followed by Russia’s Vladimir Maslennikov with bronze. 

Enkelejda Shehaj will be the lone representative for the United States in Women’s 25m Sport Pistol Tuesday.  Shehaj (Naples, Florida) made her Olympic return after a 20-year absence Sunday in Air Pistol where she finished 40th with a score of 372/400.  Just getting back to an Olympic Games is a noteworthy accomplishment for Shehaj, who came to America from Albania in 1999, looking for a new start and better opportunity for her and her daughter. 

Now, she will be stepping on the line to compete in her strongest event. Having put up some high scores at Olympic Trials and beating 2012 Olympian, Sandra Uptagrafft, by one point, she has demonstrated that she is ready for this competition and capable of managing the pressure. 

South Korea’s Kim Jangmi is the current title defender. She debuted in the ISSF World Cup Series in 2012, when she claimed gold at the Olympic test event in London (GBR), also setting a new Finals World Record. On the very same range, a few weeks later, Kim pocketed Olympic gold in the same event, enhancing it with a new Olympic Record at the end of the qualification round. Since then, she has claimed six more World Cup medals in both Pistol events, also placing second at the 2014 World Championships. She will be challenged by the current No.1-ranked Jingjing Zhang of China. The world record for this event has remained unchanged since 1994 when it was set by Diana Iorgova of Bulgaria shooting an incredible 594/600 points. 

Format: Qualification consists of 60 shots equally divided in 30 Precision Stage shots and 30 Rapid Fire Stage shots. In Precision, six 5-shots series are fired within 5 minutes per series. They are fired at a target with a bullseye about the size of a golf ball from a distance of 25 meters or about 80 feet. During the Rapid Fire there is a green light and a red light on each competitor’s target. The shooter has one minute to load and get into the “ready position”. The ready position is when the shooter stands in preparation for their series with the gun in their hand and their arm at a 45-degree angle off their body. The shooter holds this position for seven seconds while the red light is on. Then, the green light will turn on for three seconds which is when the shooter raises her gun and takes the shot before the light turns back to red for another seven seconds and the pattern continues for a total of five shots per series. There is a total of six series in rapid fire. The rapid fire stage target is shot with a bullseye about the size of a tennis ball also at a distance of 25 meters. The qualifications are scored in integer points, with the maximum score per shot being 10 points. The maximum qualification score is 600 points. For this competition, there is a semifinals round before the medals competitions. The top-eight athletes from the qualification phase advance to the semifinal round, where they shoot five 5-shots series the same way they shot the rapid fire stage, except in the semifinal round the scoring system switches from a points system to a hit-or-miss system. In the hit-or-miss system scores change to a decimal system based on inner ten rings from a 10.0 to a 10.9. A hit is considered a score of 10.2 or higher, while a score of 10.1 or lower is counted as a miss. The top two finishers from this round advance to the gold medal round to decide the gold and silver medals, the third and fourth place competitors continue to the bronze medal round while the other two are eliminated. If there is a tie for the athlete to enter the medal matches, the tied athletes will fire additional tie-breaking 5-shots series until the tie is broken. Both medal matches are conducted with the same scheme, and they don’t have a determined number of series to be fired. At the end of each 5-shot series, the athlete with the highest number of hits gets 2 points, while the other gets 0 points; if the two finalists hit the same number of targets they both get 1 point. The medal match finishes when one of the two athletes reaches seven points. 

Precision Stage Qualification – 8:00 – 10:30 a.m. ET

Rapid Stage Qualification – 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

Finals – 2:30 p.m.  | FINALS LIVESTREAM starting at 2:30 p.m. ET

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