FORT BENNING,Ga.— Soldiers from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit showed the world a glimpse into what next year’s Olympic Games could be like with a dominating performance at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico Oct. 16-22.
U.S. shooters earned ten gold and 18 overall medals during the competition. USAMU Soldiers accounted for five gold and six overall medals, and broke or tied three Pan Am Games records. Showcasing the very best of Soldier skills, every Soldier from the unit who competed in the games brought home a gold medal.
Leading the way was Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker. The only Soldier to compete in two events, Parker won medals in both. He earned gold in the three position rifle match, which brought with it the second and final Olympic country quota slot for the U.S. team in that event. He shot a 1155-49x and 94.1 final in blustery conditions to win the match.
“Out on the range it was a fairly disappointing day in terms of scores, but at the end of the day, it was nice to come home with a gold medal and a quota for our country,” said Parker.
Parker won bronze in Men’s Prone Rifle, losing out to fellow USAMU Soldier Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail. McPhail shot a 591-35x in the qualification round and closed it out with a 102.2 final to win gold. Parker shot a 588-35x in the qualification and fired the high final, shooting a 102.8.
In Men’s Air Rifle, Cpl. Matthew Rawlings won the gold medal and set a new Pan American Games record. Rawlings, the current U.S. National Champion, shot a 595 qualification round, setting a new record for that round and fired a final of 101.7 to set the new record of 696.7, besting the former high score of 695.8, set by Parker in 2007.
“I’ve been training hard and working towards this all season long,” Rawlings said.
Not to be outdone by their fellow rifle shooters, two USAMU shotgun shooters came to the games and left with two gold medals, something they are used to doing in international events.
Sgt. Glenn Eller was the first to shoot, competing in Men’s Double Trap, the same event in which he won gold at the 2008 Olympics. Eller shot a qualification round of 147, a new Pan Am Games record, and a final of 48 to set a new record in the event with a overall tally of 195, blitzing the field.
Eller completed his “International Slam,” winning his fifth major international gold medal. Besides his Olympic Gold medal, Eller has also won a World Cup, World Cup Final, and World Championship over his distinguished career.
Closing out the games was the gold medal-winning performance of Sgt. Vincent Hancock. The 2008 Olympic Champion in Men’s Skeet, Hancock shot a 122 to head into the final round tied for first. With the pressure on, Hancock shot a perfect 25 to win the gold and tie the Pan Am Games record in the process.
“It was a great feeling to get back onto the podium,” said Hancock. “It was a good stepping stone as I prepare for the second part of our U.S. Olympic Trials and gives me the confidence that I will need on my personal journey to London.”
All of the Soldiers who competed in the games will be in the hunt for Olympic team berths in the coming months. The first leg of the Shotgun Trials is complete and next up is the first Air Rifle and Pistol Trials, slated to be held the first weekend in December.