On Thursday, Eric Hollen (Colorado Springs, Colo.) rolled up to the line at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London and became the first USA Shooting Team member to compete in the Paralympic Games.
Hollen placed 14th overall after shooting a 558 out of a possible 600 points in the P1 Men’s SH1 10-meter Air Pistol event. Hollen began with a 94 on his first string (10 shots) only to struggle during his second series, shooting an 89. Strings of 92, 94, 92 would follow before Hollen would end his first of two Paralympic competitions in style with a final series of 97, matching the high series score of all competitors.
“Eric was just on the verge of being in contention,” said National Paralympic Coach Bob Foth. “With so many 9.8s and 9.9s, he almost put himself into position today. It was a battle out there and I’m just really proud of how well he competed. Eric is just such a different shooter than he was even a year ago and I know that with just a little more experience and time, he’s going to be right there. He now has the opportunity to take what he learned here today and apply it to his match in free pistol in a week.”
Defending World Champion Seakyun Park of South Korea won the gold medal in exciting fashion after a one-shot shoot-off with Korhan Yamac of Turkey. Tied at the end of the final, Park and Yamac both fired one last shot to determine the Paralympic champion and Park scored a near perfect 10.8 out 10.9 on his final shot to top Yamac’s 9.9. Park’s teammate Juhee Lee, the 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist, finished in third place once again.
General Martin E. Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in attendance today at the shooting competition in London. Hollen was a former U.S. Army Ranger in the 2/75 Ranger Regiment. He suffered a life-altering injury on his horse farm in Tennessee after his military career was over.
Hollen will wait another week until his final competition in the P4 Mixed 50m Free Pistol event.
Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (Spokane, Wash.) will realize his Paralympic dreams on Saturday, Sept. 1, where he’ll set up at firing point 34 and shoot his first record downrange as a Paralympian in Mixed R3 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1.
As the first active-duty member of the U.S. Army to earn a nomination to a U.S. Paralympic Team, Olson will have the world and his brothers and sisters of the U.S. Army watching. On the line with 50 of the world’s finest Paralympic shooters, Olson will have 75 minutes to perfect 60 shots. In an event known for clean shooting, it is highly likely that the top-8 finalists will have an unblemished 600 points.
Facing the likes of British sensation and anticipated crowd-favorite Matthew Skelhon, Olson will have to be on top of his game. Skelhon, distinguishable by his flaming red mohawk, is the top ranked R3 shooter in the world and reigning Paralympic champion. In Beijing, Skelhon was one of two athletes to shoot a perfect 600 and edged out China’s Cuiping Zhang in the final with 104.9 points. In addition to Skelhon and Zhang, Korea’s Jae Yong Sim rounds out the 2008 Paralympic podium and will also be competing in London. With the confidence of a gold medal and his home-crowd cheering his every shot, Skelhon will be the shooter to beat in London.
Olson’s determination, however, is as famous as Skelhon’s mohawk and he will not be intimidated. As a soldier who was nearly killed in Iraq by a rocket-propelled grenade and a patriot who refused to accept anything less than active-duty even with one leg, Olson’s determination has never wavered. On the firing line at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London, expect nothing less than 100 percent from 33-year-old Olson.
Catch all the action and results at the official London 2012 website:
Learn more about Josh Olson:
Image courtesy USA Shooting