For outstanding accomplishments that led them to a pair of world titles and a reserved spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, Vincent Hancock and Morgan Craft have been named USA Shooting’s Athletes of the Year for 2015. Hancock’s stellar 2015 in skeet shooting included two World Cup wins; a silver medal at the World Cup Finals; second at Nationals; an unprecedented third World Championship crown; and an Olympic Team nomination. His season began with perfection, hitting all 157 targets he faced in the first World Cup in Acapulco. In earning a third World title, Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) becomes just the third athlete to ever win three Men’s Skeet World Championship gold medals and the first American shotgun athlete to win three World titles.
Hancock’s special season drew the attention of the U.S. Olympic Committee as they named him one of five finalists for Male Athlete of the Year as part of their Team USA Awards presented by Dow. Hancock will find out Thursday during an award ceremony in Philadelphia if he’ll become the first sports shooting representative to be presented with the prestigious award.
“I’m extremely flattered to be considered one of America’s top athletes over this past year,” Hancock said of earning the nomination back in November. “With gold in Rio as my next goal, it was important for me to begin that quest putting forth elite-level performances in 2015. I’m hopeful this recognition will bring the right type of attention to the shooting sports and showcase the accomplishments of all my teammates as we set our sights on Rio.”
Next year at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Hancock will try to become the first shooter ever and just the sixth American to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same individual event.
To read a recent feature on Hancock where he discusses faith, family and his future, click here.
Confidence breeds success and there’s no greater example of that than the rise of skeet shooter Morgan Craft in 2015.
In a discipline full of stars including five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode, it was Craft (Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania) who shined the brightest in 2015. Her season included two World Cup podium finishes with silver and bronze. She proved those results were no fluke by beating her American teammate Caitlin Connor to capture the World Championship and ensure her ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games. She would end her season by earning a bronze medal at the World Cup Final.
Having demonstrated the ability to compete at the elite level, all she had to do was prove it – mostly to herself. This year, and in particular the Cyprus World Cup, she had the breakthrough she was seeking. Now, she’s soaking in all the attention that comes as a World Champion and Olympian.
“This year definitely exceeded my expectations given I medaled in four straight competitions,” Craft says. “I’ve kind of been on the brink of things for a while now; always on that border. Finally in Cyprus, it really hit me that I could do it. The most important thing gained was confidence.”
Her home state of Pennsylvania has declared December 11 as the official Morgan Craft Day under legislation approved Tuesday by the state House of Representatives, announced Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), who sponsored the House resolution marking the day.
The Keystone state has been thrust into the shooting sports spotlight this week as USA Shooting named Erin Gestl, a youth shooting coach at Palmyra Sportsmen’s Association, as one of two Development Coaches of the Year on Tuesday. Read more about that here.