After the results of today’s competition at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore (.22 caliber), U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) officials might want to start checking with the London Organizing Committee (LOCOG) on whether married housing is a possibility inside the Olympic Village. Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.) will now join her husband Eric in London after earning an Olympic Team nomination in Women’s 25-meter Pistol Tuesday in Ft. Benning, Ga.
Staff Sergeant Michael McPhail (USAMU/Darlington, Wis.) also booked his ticket as the Olympic nominee in Men’s 50-meter after what USA Shooting National Rifle Coach Major Dave Johnson described as one of the more thrilling Prone matches in years. All McPhail had to do to earn his distinction was take down the event’s two-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, N.J.). After an opening day 593 and a missed final, Emmons came back strong to lose just two points over his next 120 shots including a perfect 600 in today’s match. McPhail’s consistency over the three-day course of fire would prove to be enough in the end.
“I feel more relieved than anything and a little bit content right now,” said McPhail. ” I’ve really changed how I was shooting the last couple of years and without the support of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit there’s no way I’d ever be in this position. The biggest thing I started doing was working together with Eric Uptagraft and we’re both shooting right now better than we’ve ever shot. It’s easier having someone with the same ability level to go out and train with every day. With the depth of the men’s prone team you can’t have anything bad happen. You can’t have an off day.”
“Walking into to today I really knew what I needed to do to have a chance to make the prone team,” said Emmons. “I needed to shoot a 600 and hope that someone else screwed up which I knew wasn’t going to happen. But regardless, if I was able to walk in and shoot extremely well that’s all I can do. I’m super excited about with the past two days because prone has not been making a lot of sense for a while. This gives me some confidence for 3P because it is such a big part of the match. I’m a little sad I didn’t make it because I’m confident I could shoot well in London, but at the same time we have two great guys that are going to be shooting that event.”
McPhail will be the USA’s second representative in Men’s Rifle Prone event in London joining USAMU teammate Sergeant First Class Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.). Uptagrafft was nominated to the team in July 2011 after successful World Cup and World Championship and was to avoid the mental drain of competing for the spot on the team via the Trials. With McPhail’s nomination, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has formed quite the Olympic contingent with six soldier-athletes set to participate in London.
With 2002.8 match points, McPhail’s margin of victory proved to be just 3.8 points over three courses of fire and two weighted finals as Emmons finished with 1999 points. Emmons will compete in London, however, having already secured his position in the Men’s Three-Position and Air Rifle events. Uptagrafft shot a 1998.1 to finish third while Jason Parker (USAMU/Columbus, Ga.) finished fourth with 1997.8 match points. Dempster Christenson, Christopher Abolo, Bryant Wallizer, Justin Tracy, Michael Seery and Henry Gray rounded out the top-10 finishersoverall.
For Sandra Uptagrafft, today was the pursuit of what had to have felt like an impossible dream after having not qualified for an Olympic spot on four previous occasions. This week, however, aided by the support and direction of Ruby Fox, a two-time Olympian and 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the sport, she overcame the troubles of the past to defeat U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete Teresa Meyer (Dearborn, Mich.) and four-time Olympian Libby Callahan (Columbia, SC).
“It’s a dream come true,” said Uptagrafft. “It sounds cliché, but it’s been a long struggle and it does prove that hard work, perseverance and determination really do pay off.”
Sandra, a Petty Officer First Class in the Navy Reserves, finished with 2102.5 points overall while Meyer finished just behind with a 2099.7 followed by Callahan at 2098.8. Nora Melamed, Starlin Shi, Brenda Silva, Vladimira Borisova, Cara Krauss, Kara Allen and Marilyn Mumby rounded out the top-10 in the Women’s 25m Pistol event.
For Eric, going to the Olympic Games now will mean just a little bit more and the celebration won’t have to be muted given his wife’s spot right beside him. A 1996 Olympian, he made the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team after a span of 16 years.
“It’s been a huge emotional rollercoaster, but I’m glad it worked out and I look forward to going to London,” said Eric. “It will be a good trip. It’s been an uphill struggle because she’s been a good shooter for 20 years and she has finally come through. She’s worked really hard at it. I’m just ecstatic.”
“We both hoped that we would make the team so we can be there together,” Sandra added. “I’m glad I get to share that experience with him.”
Believed to be the first husband and wife couple to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, they’ll get to celebrate their wedding anniversary Olympic-style on August 5, two days after they complete the trip’s first objective of representing Team USA in their respective events.
Through six days of competition at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore, three Olympians have been added to the team including Nick Mowrer (Butte, Mont.) in Men’s 50-meter Free Pistol. Still remaining are four more selections including one each in Men’s and Women’s Three-Position Rifle and two nominees in Men’s 25-meter Rapid Fire Pistol. The women’s three-position event and men’s pistol begins the first of three days of competition on Wednesday with Olympic nominations set to be determined Friday. Men’s Three-Position Rifle will start the first of their three-day competition on Saturday.