USA Shooting is proud to announce Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.) and Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.) as the 2011 USAS Athletes of the Year. Both athletes have risen above the rest and have handfuls of hardware as a result of their impressive performances on the international and national scene in 2011. Moreover, Uptagrafft and Rhode are the male and female athletes of their respective disciplines: rifle, pistol and shotgun.
Rhode, a Women’s Skeet athlete, is the reigning Female Athlete of the Yearand has held the prestigious title for the past four years. “I’m honored to be selected as Female Athlete of the Year. I’m training hard and looking forward to the 2012 Olympic Games,” said an elated Rhode. She began the 2011 season with a fifth place finish at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Chile. She continued on to Sydney where she won a gold medal with 97 targets, securing her U.S. Olympic Team nomination (pending approval by the USOC). Rhode’s winning ways kept ascendin g the podium with yet another medal on the year at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing. She won the silver medal with 96 targets on the range where she won her 2008 Olympic silver medal.
Back stateside, Rhode etched her name yet again in the Sizemore trophy with another National Championship title at 265 total targets. A few months later, Rhode won the bronze medal at the ISSF World Clay Target Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, with 97 targets overall. She concluded the year with her first ISSF World Cup Final gold medal in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Battling 105 degree heat, Rhode put up 93 targets to rule the field. “This is an exciting time for me,” said Rhode. “I’m honored to receive this Athlete of the Year award and appreciate the support of my great sponsors who share in this honor with me.” National Shotgun Coach called Rhode “a dominate force in the skeet world . . . not only the best in this country but she has emerged as the best in the world.” Rhode is well on her way to achieving her next goal of accomplishing five individual Olympic medals in five consecutive Olympic Games. If she accomplishes that feat, she will add her name to the history books yet again.
Sergeant First Class Eric Uptagrafft of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has had the season of a lifetime, yet was humbled by the nod as he said, “There are so many athletes that shot great this year and to be counted among them is quite an honor.” Uptagrafft began his push for an Olympic berth in 2010 in Men’s 50m Rifle Prone and continued to charge ahead throughout the 2011 season. First, in Sydney, Uptagrafft started the year with an impressive 599 out of 600 match points. With a strong final of 104.2 points, he won his first ISSF World Cup medal of the year and an important Men’s 50m Rifle Prone quota for the USA. In Changwon, Uptagrafft won yet another medal with 596 match points and 103.6 points in the final for 699.6 total points and the silver medal. Changwon was extra-sweet for Uptagrafft as his silver medal propelled him above the point threshold to earn a nomination to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team (pending approval by the USOC). At the ISSF World Cup USA, Uptagrafft finished fifth on his home range at the USAMU with 598 match points and 101.9 points in the final.
Back on his home range, Uptagrafft won the bronze medal at the 2011 USAS National Championships for Rifle and Pistol with 1297.5 total points. Just days after winning his bronze, Uptagrafft was deployed to Afghanistan to serve his country in his capacity as a soldier. Upon his return from service, Uptagrafft shipped off yet again, but this time to compete in the prestigious ISSF World Cup Final. In Wroclaw, Poland, Uptagrafft shined after over seven weeks off practice and one week to prepare. He fired 599 match points and 102.8 points in the final for the silver medal. Despite his success, Uptagrafft wanted to recognize his supporters as he said, “Thanks to the U.S. Army, the USAMU, and USA Shooting for supporting me in my mission. I’d also like to thank my wife Sandra, my coaches Dave Johnson and Tom Tamas, and the thousands of supporters and sponsors of USA Shooting who make this all possible,” said Uptagrafft.
USA Shooting would like to congratulate Kim Rhode and Eric Uptagrafft on their respective successes in 2011 and wish them continued medals in 2012. Additional team members receiving recognition as the USAS Discipline Athletes of the Year are as follows: Emil Milev (Pistol), Jamie Beyerle (Rifle), Josh Richmond (Shotgun) and Eric Hollen (Paralympic). To read more about their accomplishments, please click here. Follow members of the USA Shooting Team as the quest for the 2012 Olympic Games continues with the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun Feb. 24-26, 2011 in Anniston, Ala., the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun May 17-20 in Tucson, Ariz., and finally the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore June 1-2 in Fort Benning, Ga.