There are good things happening within USA Shooting’s Pistol Program led by the strength in Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol along with a developing junior program ready for prime time. They’ll get their test at the upcoming World Championship as we continue our Aim For Spain World Championship Preview with a look inside USA Shooting’s Pistol World Championship Team.
“I’m really pleased with the makeup of this team,” said Pistol National Team Coach Sergey Luzov. “Most of all our open category athletes have shot internationally competitive scores somewhere along the line and we will have our opportunities in Granada. Certainly, the strength of In-Kim’s Bridge Junior Shooting Club must be recognized for the efforts that go into having placed so many quality representatives on the team. He’s done an excellent job in helping provide a pathway for young junior shooters to compete in Olympic pistol. Overall, it’s important for us to be competitive, shoot for our best and help nurture the talent around us.”
The team will be led by the resurgence of Rapid Fire Pistol shooter Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado)who has managed his way into all three World Cup finals this season and secured a win in World Cup USA in Ft. Benning, Georgia. The two-time Olympian Sanderson had battled a forearm ailment throughout the last quad but a surgery in 2013 to alleviate the pain he was experiencing in gripping his pistol seems to have helped get Sanderson back to the form that saw him lead his Olympic qualification match in 2008 and finish fifth overall in Beijing.
Sanderson along with Olympians Jason Turner (Rochester, New York) and Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama) will help try to end a U.S. World Championship medal drought in pistol that dates back to 1981 for the open (non-Junior) division when Don Nygord won a world title in Air Pistol. The last pistol World Championship medalist of any kind was junior pistol shooter Laura Santibanez, a 1998 bronze medalist in the junior 25-meter Pistol event.
“World Champs is always one of the events you look forward to in the quad,” Turner, a three-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, said. It is the biggest event that we shoot and you know that you have to bring your A game. It is a great opportunity to see where you are leading up to the Olympics in a few years.”
The U.S. squad will have a member of its team that does have world championship hardware in Rapid Fire Pistol athlete Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Florida) as he earned a silver medal in 1994 as a member of the Bulgarian National Team. The 1996 Olympic silver medalist, Milev has been competing for USA Shooting since 2009 earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2012 and winning the World Cup Finals last year.
“This competition brings me back to my first match with the US team, the World Championship in Munich 2010,” Milev said in anticipation. “The excitement is still there, and now I feel the strength of the team with me – all the support and encouragement I get from every shooter, coach, and staff member of USA Shooting. I’m part of this team because of them!”
Sanderson, Milev and Brad Balsley (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) teamed together for a team bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships. They’ll get that chance again as they team together once again this year.
Other members of the open team include James Henderson (USAMU/Midland, Georgia), Will Brown (Twin Falls, Idaho), Teresa Chambers (Dearborn, Michigan) and Enkelejda Shehaj (Naples, Florida). Brown is the only other member of the team besides Sanderson and Milev to have captured a World Cup medal in the last two years having won gold in the Ft. Benning (Georgia) World Cup in 2013 in air pistol.
Also worth noting in pistol is the influx of shooting talent originating from Southern California with four of the nine junior team shooters being groomed by Assistant National Team Pistol Coach In Kim and his Bridge Junior Shooting Club, a USA Shooting Certified Training Center. Those members include Daniel Cheon, Helen Oh, Brian Kim and Tony Chung. Two other representatives Justin Ahn and Cindy Chung also made the team based on their scores at the recent USA Shooting National Championships but declined their invitation due to school.
Other members of the junior pistol team competing in Granada includes: Wyatt Brown (Twin Falls, Idaho); Alex Chichkov (Temple Terrace, Florida); Taylor Gallegos (Prosper, Texas); Lydia Paterson (Kansas City, Kansas); Irina Andrianova (Schaumburg, Illinois), and Kellie Foster (Rockdale, Texas). Shooting Air Pistol, Paterson finished 10th in the Junior Cup event earlier this summer while Chichkov, shooting in the non-Olympic event of Standard Pistol finished fourth at the same event.
For Gallegos, the opportunity to compete at World Championships is one step closer to realizing her shooting dream and a moment she won’t let pass without absorbing as much knowledge as she can from teammates and competitors.
“My main goal with this trip is to learn from the team, as well as from the experience of shooting internationally against world-class shooters,” she said. “I hope to grow as an athlete myself in order to achieve my Olympic dream in the future. I am honored to be a part of the World Championship team representing the United States alongside athletes who I respect and aspire to be.”
For features on Sandra Uptagrafft and Tony Chung, check out the latest issue of USA Shooting News: http://content.yudu.com/A3281g/ShootingMagSept2014/resources/24.htm
Image courtesy USA Shooting