When the U.S. team departed for the ISSF Rifle/Pistol World Cup Finals in Munich, Germany yesterday, they welcomed back a member to the competition ranks and said goodbye to another.
2012 Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray (Lebanon, Pa.) will make her competition return in the Three-Position Rifle event. Gray, who has been recovering from a back injury since the Olympics, automatically secured a berth in these World Cup Finals as a reigning Olympic champion.
“World Cup Final is always a fun and exciting match and will be a great one for my first match since the Olympics,” Gray said. “The big test will be to see how my back holds up and to get used to the new rules that were implemented this past year. I can’t wait to compete again after over a year off.”
At the conclusion of the World Cup series each year, the best eight athletes in each event with the highest qualification values qualified for the ISSF World Cup Final. Qualification points are earned through ranking and in relation to the score(s) shot by the athlete at each World Cup. Additional “wild card” slots are also awarded to title defenders and Olympic Games medalists of the previous year.
Notably absent from this World Cup Finals will be defending 2012 World Cup Finals Three-Position Rifle champion Sgt. First Class Jason Parker (USAMU/Omaha, Neb.) who officially announced his retirement from competition in late September.
“World Cup Finals are one of my favorite matches to compete at,” Parker said. “There isn’t anything like standing on the firing line with only the best in the world and working towards a World Cup Finals gold medal. It is a very unique competition where you’re only shooting against nine or ten of the world’s best competitors instead of 100 competitors.”
Parker’s shooting achievements are extensive – In addition to four Olympic appearances and a World Cup Finals title, he is the current Three-Position Rifle National Champion and Prone Rifle silver medalist. Some of his career highlights include:
- 2012 World Cup Finals gold medalist,
- Nine World Cup medals (seven gold, two silver),
- Two World Championship medals (one gold, one bronze),
- Five Pan American Games medals (four gold, one bronze),
- 12 National Championship titles.
Parker has accepted the rifle coach position for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Ga.
“For me, it’s a bittersweet feeling this year to miss the World Cup Finals,” Parker said. “I am going to miss competing at such a prestigious competition, but I am excited about my new role of being the coach at the USAMU. Instead of having the goal to win the World Cup Final, my new goal is to have more USAMU Soldiers win their World Cup Final gold.”
Learn more about Parker’s competitive career here.
Also representing the U.S. in rifle is Parker’s USAMU teammate Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wis.) in Prone Rifle. McPhail, a bronze medalist in Three-Position Rifle at this year’s National Championships, earned his berth with qualification points earned from a silver medal at the World Cup in Changwon, Korea and a seventh-place finish at World Cup USA at Fort Benning.
Rounding out the rifle competitors is Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, S.D.) in Men’s 10m Air Rifle. Christenson secured his berth with points earned from his silver-medal finish at World Cup USA.
The pistol side will be led by a strong men’s contingent of World Cup USA gold medalist Will Brown (Twin Falls, Idaho), World Cup Granada bronze medalist Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Fla.) and Keith Sanderson (Kailua, Hawaii).
Brown, who also earned a silver medal at this year’s National Championships, will compete in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol event. Brown has competed in every World Cup event since World Cup USA and has gained plenty of international competition experience this season.
Milev, a five-time Olympian, picked up his 15th career World Cup medal with a bronze-medal finish at World Cup Granada in the Rapid Fire Pistol event. The points earned from his bronze medal in addition to his first-place finish in qualification assured him a spot in these World Cup Finals.
Sanderson is the only U.S. competitor who did not earn a berth from a Wild Card slot or a medal finish at a World Cup. Sanderson had two strong showings this World Cup season to qualify: At World Cup USA, he finished fifth place and World Cup Granada sixth place, with additional points earned from his qualification scores at both events.
Schedule for U.S. competitors at ISSF World Cup Finals:
- Friday: Rapid Fire Pistol (Milev and Sanderson)
- Saturday: 10m Air Rifle (Christenson)
- Sunday: 10m Air Pistol (Brown) and Three-Position Rifle (Gray)
- Monday: Prone Rifle (McPhail)
For more information on the World Cup Finals, visit the ISSF website at www.issf-sports.org.
Image courtesy USA Shooting