Every four years, a select group of shooter-athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport, get to take what most would consider shooting's biggest stage: the Olympic Games. USA Shooting recently wrapped up its national championships, a match that has a big impact on who makes the Olympic team. Here are the athletes who made the cut for the 2012 London Games. (And there's still plenty of time to support the team. Visit USA Shooting's website and make a donation today!)
Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski of Seale, Alabama—a two-time Olympian (2004 and 2008). He holds the distinction of winning the first World Cup medal claimed by any U.S. free-pistol shooter since 2000 with a victory at the "Good Luck Beijing" match in 2008. More recently, Szarenski captured a gold in air pistol and a silver in free pistol at the 2011 Pan American Games, and the year before that he won a gold medal in free pistol at the World Cup Final. Szarenski is the reigning national champion in free pistol, and finished fifth in air pistol at this year's nationals.
Nick Mowrer, joins Szarenski on the U.S. 50m Free Pistol squad, is having a year to remember. Just a few months ago, the senior from Pikes Peak Community College swept the free pistol, standard pistol and open air pistol events en route to the overall individual crown at the NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships. Mowrer hails from Butte, Montana, and is a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He earned his way onto the U.S. team with a second-place finish at the nationals this year.
Jason Turner of Rochester, NY, will be competing in Men's 10m Air Pistol. It's not his first rodeo as he was the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in air pistol. He actually came in fourth but moved into the medals when North Korea's Kim Jong-Su tested positive for a banned substance and had to forfeit the bronze. Be that as it may, Turner's air-pistol performance
was the best turned in by a U.S. athlete in years; the U.S. has won only one other medal in air pistol in the history of the sport.
Turner will be coming off an air-pistol win at this year's USA Shooting National Championships/Olympic selection match. On the free-pistol side, Turner won a gold in the event at the Championship of the Americas in 2010 and finished fourth at this year's USA Shooting National Championships.
Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, may be looking for a bit of redemption at this year's Olympic Games in 25m Rapid Fire Pistol. At Beijing in 2008, Sanderson led the field after the qualifying round but had a tough go of it in the finals. When
it was over, he was out of the medals in fifth place. That was very much on his mind when he captured a gold medal one
year later—at a World Cup at the very same range in Beijing. "I had memories of the Olympic Games going through my mind," he said after the win. "I have been replaying the Olympic final and these targets so many times after the Games that I still remember them." More recently he shot his way to silver and bronze medals in World Cups last year—plus a very convincing win at this year's national championships.
Sanderson's teammate in 25m Rapid Fire Pistol will be Emil Milev, who originally hails from Sofia, Bulgaria, and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Milev currently lives in Tampa, Florida, and helped established Pardini USA—the U.S. arm of the Italian sport pistol maker.
Milev was a fourth-place finisher at the 2012 Milan World Cup and gold medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games. And
he's no stranger to the Olympics. Shooting for his native Bulgaria at the 2004 Games, he finished in ninth place. Milev was second behind Sanderson at this year's nationals to cement his U.S. Olympic team berth.
Eric Hollen of Colorado Springs, Colorado, will represent the U.S. in Paralympic Pistol P1 and P4. A life-long shooter, Hollen was an Army Ranger and later a member of the U.S. Special Forces, but an injury he suffered on his horse farm in Tennessee led him to take up competitive shooting in a serious way. USA Shooting's Paralympic Athlete of the year in 2010 and 2011, Hollen grabbed a quota spot for himself at the IPC World Cup in Sydney, Australia. Hollen helps newly injured veterans through a program called the Care Coalition, which aids Special Forces soldiers.
"After a traumatic injury, the disability becomes the sole focus; through sport and school, the injured have an opportunity to shift their paradigm from disability to ability," he says.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sandra Uptagrafft is the lone woman pistol shooter on the U.S. team for 2012, but that doesn't mean she's not ready to tear it up in London. Uptagrafft will be shooting 25m Sport Pistol and Women's 10m Air Pistol. She was the gold medalist in the event at the 2011 Pan American Games and is a back-to-back U.S. champion, winning the nationals in 2011 and earlier this year.Her accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that
she's been on deployment with her Seabee unit in Afghanistan since 2010. Oh, and being a top-flight shooter is a family affair with the Uptagraffts; her husband, Eric, is a member of the U.S. Olympic rifle team.
Coach Sergey Luzov was born in Potsdam, Germany, and grew up in Severdonetsk, Ukraine. While he's our national pistol coach, he got his start as a running target shooter. Sergey was the 1986 world champion in that event and was a world record holder. After his World Cup gold medal-winning performances in 1986 and 1988, he became the running
target coach for Belarus' Olympic team from 1991 to 1994. In 1996 Sergey got the chance to move to the United States to coach our running target team--just in time to head up the squad that competed in the
Atlanta 1996 Games. He led the running target team in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the last year for that event as an Olympic discipline, before taking over as pistol coach. He earned a master's degree in coaching from the Belorussia State University of Physical Training and Sport in Minsk.
Paralympic Coach Bob Foth is himself a three-time Olympian—including a silver medal in Men's 50m 3 Position in 1992—plus numerous national and international medals to his credit during his shooting career. He was part of several world champion teams and set six
world records. He joined the USA Shooting staff as Youth Programs and Coach Development Manager in 2006 and assumed his new role as Paralympic Coach/Manager in April 2009. Bob's primary duties as Paralympic Coach and Program Manager are to prepare his elite athletes to compete in national and international competitions. He also works with NRA and USAMU to build programs for disabled shooters to build a pipeline for athletes who wish to pursue the Paralympic dream
Photos courtesy USA Shooting