The holiday countdown for America’s elite Airgun athletes is upon us and their hoping it includes plenty of 10.9s as a record crowd is expected for Part I of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials set for the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, December 4-6. Over 430 athletes are expected to compete at the event formally known as the Winter Airgun Championships with five total Olympic spots available including two in Men’s Air Rifle and one each in Women’s Air Rifle, Men’s Air Pistol and Women’s Air Pistol.
The two-part Olympic Trials begin Friday as athletes will face three straight days of competition 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. The top-10 participants in each discipline will then advance to the final stage of Airgun Team Trials next June. No Team spots will be secured during the first stage of these Olympic Team Trials.
Today’s focus is the Air Rifle competition currently featuring 301 athletes (168 Women/133 Men). Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana), Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) and Connor Davis (Shelbyville, Kentucky) were the three athletes earning the Olympic country quotas and will be among a long line of contenders ready to step up and claim their individual spot. Beard and Christenson are the reigning National Champions in the event and have shown success internationally with Christenson winning a World Cup silver medal back in 2013 and Beard earning her way into a World Cup final and finishing fifth to earn the quota earlier this year. Beard finished second during the recent Dixie Double mixed event featuring a lot of expected Olympic Trials competitors. The 2013 national champion, Davis earned the other Olympic quota in Men’s Air Rifle by winning the 2015 Pan American Games.
“I think about Rio every day, and now that it’s so close, it seems like the thought crosses my mind every hour,” said Beard in a previous interview. “I’m so excited to see what this next year looks like. No matter how 2016 ends up, I still want to focus on enjoying the process and savoring every moment of competition. Every year and every quad is a different experience, and I want to soak this one up as much as I can.”
Anticipation is high for the welcomed return of 2012 Olympian Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts), who has battled severe back injuries and two different surgeries since 2014. This will be the 2013 national champion’s first competition since May of 2014 when she earned a bronze medal during World Cup USA. Others contenders on the women’s side could include Amy Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky), who has medaled at two of the three national championships since 2012. Also on the watch list is crop of junior talent that includes Pan Am Games teammates Elizabeth Marsh (Searcy, Arkansas) and Sarah Osborn (Hampton, Virginia) as well as Nationals runner-up Virginia Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia). Also, High School student Rhiann Travis (Poole, Texas) won the Dixie Double just before Thanksgiving, showcasing her Trials readiness.
On the men’s side, keep your eye on Ryan Anderson (Wasilla, Alaska), Dan Lowe (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit/Olympia, Washington), Bryant Wallizer (Little Orleans, Maryland) and George Norton (USAMU/Salina, Kansas). Anderson is the 2014 National Champion and finished second this year. Wallizer was the Pan American Games bronze medalist. Lowe has finished third at Nationals each of the last two years.
To read the Air Pistol preview from Tuesday, click here.
The complete shooting schedule can be accessed here: http://www.usashooting.org/library/Competitions/0_2015/WAG/2015_WAG.OT_SCHEDULE.pdf