|USA Shooting smallbore rifle and pistol athletes with Rio in Sight will descend upon Fort Benning, Georgia for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore April 1 – 8. The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore will consist of three straight days of competition for each event, featuring three Qualifiers and three separate Finals.
Each day’s qualifying scores and points from the event Finals will be added to each competitor’s score to get a cumulative total. Nominations to the U.S. Olympic Team will occur for each event pending the last Final of the given event. Only those athletes who have earned a 2016 Rio Qualifying Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS) will be eligible to compete in this Olympic Team Trial.
Five slots on the Team will be up for grabs among the 61 athletes competing – one each in Women’s Three-Position Rifle, Sport Pistol, Men’s Prone Rifle, Rapid Fire Pistol and Free Pistol. Three of the slots for smallbore athletes were already claimed at the conclusion of 2015 when Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wisconsin/U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit) and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey, pictured) secured their slots via the USA Shooting Olympic Points System in Men’s Prone Rifle and Men’s Three-Position Rifle respectively. Two-time Olympian Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) has also secured a slot via the Points System for Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol.
Emmons earned one of the Olympic country quotas in Men’s Prone Rifle and will look to earn the double-Olympic start in the event. While excelling in Men’s Three-Position Rifle, most recently winning gold at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup 2016 season opener in Bangkok, Thailand and the 2015 World Cup Final, Emmons has shown just as much prowess in the Prone event by winning a gold at the 2004 and silver at the 2008 Olympic Games. He also won World Cup gold and silver in 2015 in the event. Look for two-time Olympian Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama/USAMU) to challenge for the second Prone Rifle quota as well.
Though only one quota is available in the Men’s Three-Position Rifle event and was earned by Emmons per the USA Shooting Olympic Team Selection Procedures, a Men’s Three-Position Rifle competition will take place at these Olympic Team Trials. Per U.S. Olympic Committee requirements, athletes are required to be ranked in any event in which a country holds a quota. Should a male rifle athlete earn a double start in Three-Position and another rifle event, a Team slot for Men’s Three-Position Rifle may become available.
The largest field of competitors will be in the Women’s Three-Position Rifle competition with 16 athletes vying for one slot. 2012 Olympians Amanda Furrer (Spokane, Washington) and Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts) will look to earn a slot to a second Olympic Games. Though Scherer has been sidelined for nearly two years with two back surgeries that nearly forced her out of the sport, she made a strong return to World Cup competition in March in Bangkok, finishing in seventh place in Three-Position Rifle.
Look for National Champion Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) – who also finished in fourth place at the Bangkok World Cup, along with country quota winner Amy Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky) and newly-crowned NCAA Air and Smallbore National Champion Virginia Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) to also be strong competitors in this competition.
On the Pistol side, expect very close competition in all of the smallbore disciplines. Though Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol has the smallest field of competitors (four), it is the only Pistol event with two country quotas available and perhaps the tightest competition. With Sanderson having already punched his ticket to Rio, look for 2015 Pan American Games gold medalist Brad Balsley (Uniontown, Pennsylvania/USAMU) and five-time Olympian Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Florida) to square off for the remaining Team slot.
In Women’s Sport Pistol, 2012 Olympian and 2015 Pan American Games silver medalist Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama) will make her return to competition since the Pan American Games after severely injuring her shooting hand last fall. National Champion and 2008 Olympian Brenda Silva (Snowflake, Arizona) shot world-class scores at the Pan American Games, though she finished in sixth place overall.
Though James Henderson (Midland, Georgia/USAMU) earned the country quota for Men’s Free Pistol with his fourth-place finish at the 2015 World Cup USA, he may be facing the toughest field of competitors for the Team slot against three Olympians in Brian Beaman (Selby, South Dakota), Nick Mowrer (Butte, Montana) and Jason Turner (Rochester, New York). Another contender is rising star and Air Pistol specialist Will Brown (Twin Falls, Idaho), who most recently finished a point out the Finals at World Cup Bangkok and finished fourth at the 2015 Munich World Cup.
Pre-event training starts April 1 with competition starting April 2 in Men’s Prone Rifle, Women’s Three-Position Rifle and Men’s Free Pistol.