As expected, the stars emerged during the Rocky Mountain Rifle Championships with Michael McPhail, Matt Emmons and an Italian Olympic duo leaving Colorado Springs with the titles they hope will propel them to Olympic glory later this summer in Rio. Competition in the five Olympic rifle disciplines started last Wednesday with Men’s and Women’s Air and Prone Rifle events. The event concluded Sunday with the final shots of the Men’s & Women’s Air Rifle match. With over 55 participants including competitors from six countries, the competition was intense.
World No.1-ranked McPhail (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit/Darlington, Wisconsin) earned the victory in his signature Prone Rifle event against top-notch competition. He would earn the 3.5 point victory over Italy’s Marco De Nicolo, with Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey) securing bronze. Three other Americans earned top-10 status as Matt Chezem (Simi Valley, California) finished sixth, Hank Gray (Phenix City, Alabama) in eighth and two-time Olympian Eric Uptagrafft (USAMU/Phenix City, Alabama) 10th.
Emmons would emerge victorious in Men’s Three-Position rifle ahead of two Italian competitors including good friend and reigning Olympic gold medalist Niccolo Campriani who would take the silver while De Nicolo earned another medal with bronze. Three other Americans earned top-10 status as Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) finished sixth, George Norton (USAMU/Salina, Kansas) in eighth and Daniel Lowe (USAMU/Olympia, Washington) ninth.
In Men’s Air Rifle, it was Campriani, also the reigning Olympic silver medalist in this event, putting up two world-class scores to earn the overall title. French shooter Valerian Sauveplane finished second while Christenson earned the bronze medal.
Italian Olympian and World Champion Petra Zublasing was the class of the women’s field sweeping gold in both Air and Three-Position Rifle events. The continued comeback from a severe back injury for 2012 Olympian Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts) was also a major storyline as she put herself in position for a silver medal in the first smallbore match since her comeback began in late September. She was also in the running in Air Rifle before withdrawing Sunday as a preventative health measure.
Olympic Training Center resident athlete Emily Holsopple (Wilcox, Pennsylvania) finished with the identical score (1176) as Scherer in Three-Position, but would have to settle for bronze based on center 10s.
A huge 422.5 score on the second day of Air Rifle pushed Zublasing to .2 margin of victory over Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) with high school upstart Rhiann Travis (Poolville, Texas) earning bronze on points after taking the win in the Final. Travis would go on to win the junior title as well.
Other distinguishable high school standouts also included Three-Position junior champions Jacob Buchanan (Spring, Texas) and Morgan Phillips (Salisbury, Maryland) as well as 14-year-old Will Shaner (Colorado Springs, Colorado), the Junior Men’s Air Rifle champion. Shaner was recognized as the top male junior for a performance that also included a silver medal in Junior Men’s Three-Position Rifle. Sixteen-year-old Emily Stith (Colorado Springs, Colorado) earned the same award among females for a performance that included silver-medal finishes in both Air and Three-Position while also making the Air Open Final. Also, 17-year-old Elizabeth Marsh (Searcy, Arkansas) was the lone junior to make the Women’s Three-Position Final.
Athletes were using this match to help prepare for the start of the 2016 International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup season that kicks-off March 1 in Bangkok, Thailand.
U.S. Paralympic quota earners also participated including McKenna Dahl (Arlington, Washington), Tammy Delano (Rome, New York), John Joss (USAMU/Corsicana, Texas) and Jazmin Almlie-Ryan (Houston, Texas). Paralympic Rifle athletes began their World Cup season in late January with Almlie-Ryan and Dahl participating in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. They were using this match to prep for the next IPC World Cup also in Bangkok, March 14-19.