As debuts go, today could not have gone much better for both Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and National Rifle Coach Marcus Raab. Christianson propelled Team USA to a great start at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Ft. Benning, Ga., by earning a silver medal in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle event.

It was the World Cup debut of Christenson and a hopeful sign of things to come from the newly-minted Olympic Training Center resident athlete who can now call Colorado Springs home, thus helping him secure the training environment he relishes.

“It’s allowed me to focus on what I want to do in this sport,” said the 22-year-old South Dakota native. “Being able to shoot at the Training Center, everything just opens up because you don’t have all these other obligations and you can focus everything you have on what you want to do.”

By his side, making his National Team coaching debut, was Raab, who took over for Dave Johnson earlier this year after Johnson was promoted to USA Shooting’s Director of Operations.

Christenson qualified for the Finals with a score of 622.8/654, which would seat him as the fifth best preliminary score among the 47 competitors. Today’s top qualifier, Peter Sidi of Hungary, would fall victim to the new ISSF rules which creates a zero-start final for all eight finalists. Qualifying with a new World Record score and a 4.4 lead over his nearest competitor would mean nothing in the finals and he would find himself as the first eliminated contestant after scoring uncharacteristic high 8s in two of his first eight finals shots to go along with two other 9s.

Seventh after his first finals string; sixth after the second, but then back-to-back 10.8s (out of a 10.9 scale) would move Christenson all the way to second behind China’s Haoran Yang. He’d slip to third after the sixth string following repeat 9.7s, but would retake second position for good averaging 10.4 over his last six shots.  Yang would secure the gold medal for China while Israel’s Sergey Richter earned the bronze medal. Overall, five of the eight finalists were seeing action in their first World Cup final.

ISSF rules limiting World Cup entries by nation perhaps cost Team USA another medal or two Monday as collegiate standout Connor Davis (Shelbyville, Ky.) scored a good enough qualifying score to make the eight-person finals. Though ISSF limits entries per event, they do provide wildcard entries and out-of-competition slots that are typically consumed by the larger teams and host nations. Team USA had eight competitors on the firing line during the event. Davis finished fourth at the NCAA Rifle Championships for the University of Kentucky and as his score proves today is a rising force in the Men’s Air Rifle event. Dan Lowe (Olympia, Wash.) also shot a qualifying score worthy of finals placement as well.

Selected World Cup competitors Bryant Wallizer (Little Orleans, Md.) and Tyler Rico (Tucson, Ariz.) finished 23rd and 24th overall.

Two events were contested on Monday with Women’s 10m Air Pistol the other featured event. Teresa (Meyer) Chambers (Dearborn, Mich.) shot well but missed qualifying for the finals by just one point. The finals would need an extra shot to decide the winner between Korea’s Jangmi Kim and China’s Qi Sun as the two tied at the end of their 20th finals shot. Kim would come out on top shooting a 9.6 compared to a 9.1 shot by Sun. Bronze medalist was Zorana Arunovic of Serbia.

Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.), a 2012 Olympian, finished 25th while Alana Townsend (Kalispell, Mont.) finished 35th in her World Cup debut.

A total of 290 athletes, including 31 of America’s top Olympic-style shooters, representing 40 nations are competing in the week-long event.

Image courtesy USA Shooting

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