The 2013 International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) Rifle & Pistol World Cup in Changwon, Korea, kicked-off today with the official Opening Ceremony, with the presence of ISSF and local authorities. USA Shooting has sent a small, but potent line-up of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) representatives to compete including Olympians Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wis.), Jason Parker (Omaha, Neb.)and Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.).

Three hundred athletes from 30 countries registered to participate in this ISSF Rifle & Pistol World Cup Stage of the season. Changwon’s is the first of the four legs of this year’s ISSF World Cup Series in the 10 Olympic rifle and pistol events.

The new ISSF rule changes have brought about the most extensive set of modifications in the sports history while implementing a completely new Finals format. After the qualification rounds, which are conducted under the old rules, the top-eight shooters advance to a semifinal-a new competition stage. The qualification score is not carried forward as all the semifinalists start from zero. The new rules push even greater drama on the final stages. The ISSF feels that the changes make medal decisions easier to understand, thus enhancing the viewing excitement for both spectators and TV audience.

“Here in Korea we are introducing the new ISSF rules, that reshape our finals,” ISSF Secretary General Franz Schreiber said at today’s opening ceremony. “Medal decisions will be immediate and engaging. It’s an important move for our sport, and the first official step is taken here in Changwon.”

All three USA Shooting representatives will compete in the Men’s Prone event on Saturday, April 6, while Parker will also take to the firing line in Men’s Three-Position Rifle on Tuesday, April 9. Prone specialists McPhail and Uptagrafft haven’t seen major competition since London and the 2012 Olympic Games where they finished ninth and 16th respectively. Parker competed in the ISSF World Cup Finals to finish 2012 and earned the coveted crystal globe for his gold-medal performance in Men’s 3P Rifle.

McPhail shot 39 bulls eyes over the course of 60 shots in London only to still be on the outside looking in after tying with nine other competitors for the five spots in the Olympic final. With a five-shot shoot-off to determine the other five finalists, McPhail thought he was in great shape averaging a 10.26 throughout and never straying outside the 10-ring on any of the five shots. But his finals dream would be undone by three-tenths of a point, mere fractions of an inch.

Stepping onto the Olympic stage for the first time in 16 years, Uptagrafft started slow and dropped four big points in the first two strings (20 shots) before connecting for perfect 10s on 38 of his last 40 shots. Finishing with a 594 overall, Uptagrafft would finish one off the pace to join the field of the nine shoot-off competitors.

For McPhail and Uptagrafft, the new zero-start finals will be a strong test for them as they typical try to like to put as much distance between them and the rest of the field in qualifying. That distance is relatively meaningless in pursuit of medals under the new rules.

For four-time Olympian Parker, his World Cup Final performance was way more indicative of the level he’s been shooting at consistently in recent years versus the 30th place he ended with in London.

The first final matches of this ISSF Rifle and Pistol World Cup Stage in Changwon – the 10m Air Rifle and the 50m Pistol Men – are scheduled to take place Thursday, April 4.

USA Shooting’s World Cup season is off to a great start as the Team earned three medals in the first World Cup of the season in Acapulco. The shotgun-only event featured 13 U.S. athletes with nine earning finishes inside the top-10. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vincent Hancock (skeet/Eatonton, Ga.), Brian Burrows (trap/Fallbrook, Calif.) and Ian Rupert (double trap/Muncy, Pa.) earned gold, silver and bronze medals for the U.S. squad.

Image courtesy USA Shooting

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