The good fortune that Team USA found on Day 1 of the 2012 International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) Shotgun World Cup wasn’t replicated in Men’s Skeet on Monday as the three U.S. competitors were unable to advance to finals competition at the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club.

Tucson’s shooting range once again was the stage of a record competition today as Greece’s Efthimios Mitas, 26, won Men’s Skeet gold medal equaling the World Record (125 hits in the qualifications) and the Final World Record (with an overall score of 150 hits).  The Greek finalist played a perfect match, hitting all the targets over the two-day competition, to secure his first ever ISSF Gold medal.

Coming out of the qualifications, Mitas had to fight against the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist Anthony Terras, a 26-year old French shooter who made it to the final with a record score of 125 hits as well, but then finished out of the podium after missing a single “mark” and a “pool” in the double at station four.

The silver medal went to the 2000 Olympic Champion Mikola Milchev, 44. The expert skeet shooter qualified for the match with 123 hits, and then climbed up to the podium after beating the young Mexican flag bearer Carlos Alberto Valdez Romero in an endless shoot-off, with a score of 148+44 to 148+43 hits.

The 125-target World Record equaled today had been established by Vincent Hancock(USAMU/Eatonton, Ga.) at the 2007 ISSF World Cup in Lonato, Italy. Since then, the record had been equaled eight times. The American shooter had set the 150-target Final World Record in the same occasion, a record which has been equaled only five times since then.

Pushed by the hot-shooting field, the U.S. Team featuring the 2008 Olympic gold medalist Hancock, BJ Blanchard (Vidor, Texas) and Jon Michael McGrath (Tulsa, Okla.) was pressured to be nearly perfect on day two.

Hancock nearly was on Tuesday shooting two of three perfect rounds, but two missed targets sandwiched in between would eliminate him from finals contention after connecting on 121/125 targets over two days.

“The whole goal was to come out here and shoot pretty well and go through the motions and make sure everything was working,” said Hancock. “I’ve got my sights set on the Olympics and that’s the main goal this year.  Of course I wanted to come out here and win, shoot my best and represent my country the best I can.   I didn’t shoot as well as I expected to, but I was moving the gun extremely well.   I can’t be disappointed with the way that I shot just in the targets that I missed.  I don’t really know what happened on them so maybe it’s just beginning of the year jitters.  I’ve been shooting very, very consistent and have been shooting a ton of rounds, so not shooting a score is not because of a lack of practice or lack of dedication.  Sometimes that kind of thing happens.”

Hancock added: “The next step is the World Cup in London and to get a good feel for the range there and come back here in May, win that match and make the Olympic Team, go to the Olympics and try to repeat.”

McGrath nailed 118 targets with Blanchard just behind with 117 targets overall.

The ISSF Shotgun World Cup will continue Wednesday with competition in Men’s Double Trap featuring a stacked U.S. Team primed for medal contention.  2008 Olympic gold medalist and current World No. 5 Sergeant Glenn Eller (USAMU/Katy, Texas) is aiming to start his year with a World Cup win but will have to hold off a strong contingent of double trap shooters including seven of the ISSF top-10.  Eller’s Olympic teammate Sergeant Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, Calif.), a fourth-place finisher in Beijing, is also set to participate as is 2012 U.S. Olympic Team nominee and 2010 World Champion Staff Sergeant Josh Richmond (USAMU/Hillsgrove, Pa.).  Also representing the USA will be current Junior World Champion Billy Crawford (Johnstown, Ohio).

Follow the match on www.issf-sports.org and on http://www.youtube.com/issfchannel.

photo: USA Shooting

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