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2020 VISION: RAISE THE FLAG -- ONE-YEAR OUT PREVIEW

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 23, 2019)

The 2020 vision for America’s Shooting Team is all about taking advantage of every opportunity to #RaiseTheFlag. With one year to go until the 2020 Olympic Games get underway in Tokyo, Japan, this campaign will serve as the motivational driver used to pursue all available resources and sharpen the organizational vision on the mission of getting athletes on the podium and seeing the American flag raised in competition.

The Flagbearer for this campaign, just as she has been for three decades, is Kim Rhode (El Monte, California).She’s already achieved the unbelievable as a six-time Olympic medalist. As a living legend of Olympic sport, she’s back for more. The biggest challenge to earning a seventh-straight medal will likely come from within her own team as the Women’s Skeet squad is arguably the most dominant female team in the world currently. There’s plenty of domestic roadblocks ahead in Rhode’s pursuit to add to a career resume second to none.

Shotgun is the power source for USA Shooting as Tokyo comes into view with Rhode driving and Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) back pursuing a fourth Olympic opportunity.  This time he’s got a little revenge on his mind after not shooting up to his own incredibly high standard in Rio following two consecutive gold medals. 

All eyes between now and then will be on a Men’s Trap program eager to qualify an athlete for Olympic competition for the first time since 2008. The loss of Double Trap from the Olympic program meant the loss of depth, quality and medal potential in the U.S. lineup, but competitors like five-time Olympian Glenn Eller (Katy, Texas) are attempting to master shooting one target versus two, which proves to be a more difficult task than one might thing.

2016 Air Rifle gold medalist Ginny Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) graduated from West Virginia University earlier this year and has moved to the Olympic Training Center to hone in on another golden opportunity. Her strength now comes in the Three-Position event having just won the national title. Look for Ali Weisz (Belgrade, Montana) and Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) to also challenge in Women’s Rifle.

“Being one-year out from the 2020 Olympics means making every day count as we get closer to the pinnacle of shooting competition," Thrasher acknowledged. "My goal is to get better every day on and off the range so I can perform to my potential and represent my country proudly in Tokyo.” 

Two-time Olympian Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wisconsin) is trying to reinvent himself as a Three-Position specialist, after being forced to adapt following the elimination of his specialty event, Prone Rifle, from the Olympic program. That transition seems to be working after he finished third at the 2018 World Championships. Other rifle athletes to look for includes Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado), 2016 Olympian Lucas Kozeniesky (Fairfax, Virginia) and 2012 Olympian Nick Mowrer (Butte, Montana).

Typically a veteran-laden squad, pistol is primed for a youthful emergence with the rise of the Leverett siblings and Alexis Lagan (Boulder City, Nevada). Eighteen-year-old Henry Leverett (Bainbridge, Georgia),not three-time Olympian Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado), picked up the first of two Olympic quotas in Rapid Fire Pistol. Lagan earned a quota as well and just recently earned national titles in each of the Olympic events (Air/Sport). Other strong pistol contenders include 2012 Olympians Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama) and Nick Mowrer (Butte, Montana) as well as another quota-earner James Hall (Columbia, Missouri).  

STORYLINES & ATHLETES TO WATCH

RHODE TO EXCELLENCE -- Being consistently great at an Olympic level is difficult at best. That is unless you are Kim Rhode whose greatness in the shooting sports began 23 years ago in Atlanta and shows absolutely no sign of fatigue. She added to her legendary status in the sport recently by winning a fourth consecutive World Cup event. Rhode is no stranger to superlative as the only U.S. Olympian ever to earn medals in six consecutive Olympic Games. She’s now embracing victory in ways the sport has never seen. World Cup events began in 1986, and until May 2019 no female had ever won four consecutive World Cup events.  Additionally, no shotgun athlete, male or female, has ever won four consecutive World Cup events. It goes without saying now, but Rhode, who turned 40 on July 16, is in a class of her own. Her 21st World Cup victory in shotgun is 10 more than any other athlete.   

VINNY THE GREATSeeking a third gold medal, Vincent Hancock’s mastery of the sport continues as he recently clinched a fifth straight World Cup victory in which he’s been present and the sixth consecutive international victory overall when you factor in the record-setting world title he earned in 2018. He’s on a roll and when he’s right, which is what he expects to be in Tokyo, there’s nobody that can beat him in the world. He’s added a rigorous physical training program to his already extensive training routine to make him better equipped for an exhaustive Olympic run and gold-medal chase.  

“The Olympic Team is a dream," Hancock explained. "It’s only the very few that ever get the chance to make it there and experience what it’s like to represent the United States. It’s something that can’t be taken for granted and that I work continuously to achieve. I have one year to become the best athlete that I can be in my quest for another Olympic Gold!” 

Skeet Medal Sweep at the 2018 World Championships.SKEET TREATSince 2016, the U.S. Women’s Skeet has unfurled a force so steady and strong it’s now time for people to start paying attention. As mentioned, the greatest battle in Women’s Skeet in Tokyo will come before the Olympics on domestic soil during the two-part U.S. Olympic Team Trials.  Consider this, the U.S. has had two world champions since Rio and neither of them named Rhode. The U.S. team swept the podium at the 2018 World Championships with Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, Louisiana) becoming world champion, Rhode claiming silver and Amber English earning the bronze. This is a team so strong that 2017 World Champion and two-time U.S. Champion Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida) didn’t make the 2018 World Champs team; a team so strong that Connor didn’t make the 2019 team; and consider that two Americans not mentioned above share the Qualification World Record in juniors Austen Smith (Keller, Texas) and Sam Simonton (Gainesville, Georgia). The depth extends well into the junior ranks and beyond Smith and Simonton with Katie Jacob (Rochester, Michigan) earning runner-up status at the Junior World Championships and those three just completing another medal sweep at the recently concluded Junior World Cup. 

NICK MOWRER: THE BO JACKSON OF SHOOTING -- If 2012 Olympian Nick Mowrer were any other athlete in any other sport, he would have endorsement deals galore and people would know his name. The fact that he competes in shooting, as our modern-day version of Bo Jackson, is a bit unfair. He's a World Cup medalist in both pistol and rifle disciplines, which is a whole lot harder than you might think. It's like winning medals in skiing and snowboarding. That hasn't been done and Nick's the only person on the planet to have done what he's done in shooting. He's that good at what he does and we're lucky he declared shooting as his Olympic Sport!

AWESOME ASHLEY-- Trap supremacy is held by Ashley Carroll (Solvang, California) after winning the world title on July 3, and it is something she’s been building toward after her seventh World Championships appearance already as a 24-year-old. In winning the world title, Carroll becomes the first U.S. women to earn a World Championship medal, along with the world title, since Cindy Gentry in 1999.  It’s the first Trap medal for Team USA at a World Championship, men or women, since bronze by Bret Erickson in 2006. 

SPORT CHANGESGone from the Olympic program is the events of Prone Rifle, Free Pistol and Double Trap. In their place, mixed team events featuring one male and one female for Air Rifle, Air Pistol and Trap.  The loss of those events, particularly our strength in Prone and Double Trap, takes away key medal chances that the U.S. counted on in prior Games and those haven’t really been replaced with the addition of the new events just yet.  Additionally, women and men now shoot the same course of fire in all events, whereas previously women shot less shots in competition.

QUALIFICATION PROCEDURES

USA Shooting Team athletes are presently Quota hunting, with two final competitions available to earn the all-important Olympic quotas including the upcoming Pan American Games and the season’s final World Cup stops, August 13-23 in Lahti, Finland for Shotgun, and August 26-September 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for Rifle/Pistol.  Top-two finishes in any of these events earns a Quota and placement could be lower if higher-placed competitors have already earned a Quota for their country.  Athletes previously had the opportunity to earn Quotas at the 2018 World Championships, 2018 Championship of the Americas and earlier 2019 World Cups.

As of July 24, Rifle is missing three Quotas including one each in Men’s and Women’s Air Rifle and Women’s Three-Position Rifle. Shotgun is missing two Quotas in Men’s Trap and Pistol is in search of five remaining Quotas including one each in Men’s Rapid Fire and Air Pistol, Women’s Sport Pistol and both in Women’s Air Pistol.

An Olympic quota is essentially a country’s ticket to participate in a specific event in the 2020 Olympic Games. Earning an Olympic quota in competition ensures the country a spot in that event, not necessarily the athlete.

SELECTION PROCEDURES

Any Olympic Quota spots won will be up for grabs through a two-part Olympic Trials match making up the Olympic Selection. At the end of Olympic Team Trials Part II, a ranking list will be final based on total points. U.S. Olympic Team Trials start in Fall 2019 with Part I in Smallbore while Part 1 of Airgun Trials will take place at the December Winter Airgun competition. These will be followed by Part II in Spring 2020.  The two-part Olympic Trials process will consist of four courses of fire (Qualification Matches) and two Finals in total, split evenly over each of the two Trials events.

KEY DATES

  • September 7 – 21 – Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun, Part I (Kerrville, TX)
  • September 30 – October 4 -- Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore, Part I (Fort Benning, GA)
  • December 6-8 – Olympic Team Trials for Air Rifle, Part I (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • December 14 – 16 – Olympic Team Trials for Air Pistol, Part I (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • TBD Spring 2020 – Olympic Team Trials for Rifle/Pistol, Part II (Fort Benning, GA)
  • TBD Spring 2020 – Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun, Part II (TBD)

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