Admittedly, there’s a youth movement going on in the rifle program of USA Shooting. But with youth comes optimism and there’s plenty of leadership to show the young sharpshooters the right way at the upcoming 2014 World Championship in Granada, Spain. We get you set with a look at the USA Shooting Team in Rifle featuring some proven talent and some promising upstarts.
This team, as it has been for more than a decade, is led by all-everything Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey). The three-time Olympic medalist has given up Air Rifle since London, which means more time behind the smallbore gun he loves most. He’s made event finals in three of the four World Cup events he’s competed in and will hope to earn his first international medal since London and his fourth World Championship medal come September.
Shooting Prone has been a medal luxury for Emmons and Team USA. He was the gold medalist in 2002 and bronze medalist in 2010. With a medal this time around, he would become the all-time leader with three World Champs medals in this event. Now competing in his fifth World Championships, Emmons has four individual medals overall including one as a junior. Combining individual and team, Emmons has collected 11 medals, tying him with teammate Kim Rhode for most World Champs hardware of those competing for the USA Shooting Team.
“It’s a big match and the most difficult one to win,” said Emmons of competing in Granada. “I like big challenges and this is what I’ve been working toward for the last 18 months. All of the other competitions were steps along the path in my preparation for this. Though never 100 percent satisfied with where I’m at, I know I’m doing a lot of things extremely well and I’ve been working very hard. The podium has eluded me this year in the World Cups, but I’ve been close. It’s almost time to see if the things I’ve learned and have been working on this year are enough to get me where I want to be.”
Emmons and his Olympic rifle teammates from 2012 including Michael McPhail (USAMU/Darlington, Wisconsin) Eric Uptagrafft (USAMU/Phenix City, Alabama), and Amanda Furrer (Spokane, Washington) will lead a team long on talent, but short on experience.
The team got even less experienced Tuesday with the withdrawal of Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts) from competition due to a back injury. A double qualifier in both Air and Three-Position Rifle, Scherer’s withdrawal creates immediate opportunity for Emily Holsopple (Wilcox, Pennsylvania). Holsopple is a three-time U.S. Championships medalist and has been training steadily at her new home at the U.S. Olympic Training Center ever since news of Scherer’s injury surfaced during the Spain Grand Prix. Competing in Scherer’s spot in air rifle will be Amy Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky), who was already on the team competing in three-position. Sowash’s opportunity came after junior world team members Minden Miles (Weatherford, Texas) and Sonya May (Rockland, Massachusetts) declined the opportunity to move up to open competition.
Furrer and Holsopple, Sowash and the other U.S. teammates will look to break a U.S. women’s medal drought in the open division that dates back to 1998 when Elizabeth Bourland earned a bronze medal in the 50-meter Prone event. Add Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) to that mix as she’s shown she can come up big previously at the World Championships winning a silver medal in junior competition in Prone at the 2010 World Championships.
“I’m looking forward to competing at World Championships as part of the open women’s team. Last time around I competed as a junior. This match is huge and I feel like I’ve stepped up my game a lot in the last four years,” said the Olympian Furrer. “Competing at World Championships means you’re one of the best of the best and I’m honored to be part of Team USA!”
Other open competitors include Connor Davis (Shelbyville, Kentucky), a rising star in the sport of air rifle who competes collegiately for Kentucky, Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Ryan Anderson (Wasilla, Alaska) and David Higgins (San Clemente, California).
While many programs go into the creation of the USA Shooting Team from all three disciplines, nowhere is this more prevalent than in rifle where the NCAA Rifle program has provided strength in numbers for the junior team competitors present in Granada. Fourteen of the 28 rifle team members currently reside at collegiate rifle programs led by Alaska-Fairbanks with four, Texas Christian and Kentucky with two, while Ohio State, North Carolina State, West Virginia, Tennessee Martin, Air Force Academy and Nebraska each have one representative apiece.
Junior team members include Sagen Maddalena (Groveland, California), Garrett Spurgeon (Canton, Missouri), Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado), Michael Steinel (Lowell, Ohio), Sonya May (Rockland, Massachusetts), Dacotah Faught (Amenia, North Dakota), Minden Miles (Weatherford, Texas), Lucas Kozniesky (Southern Pines, North Carolina), Lauren Phillips (Seabeck, Wash.), Lorelie Stanfield (Fairbanks, Alaska), Remington Lyman (Meriden, Connecticut) and Katie Bridges (Kingsland, Texas).
For features on team members Garrett Spurgeon as well as Amy Sowash, click here: http://content.yudu.com/A3281g/ShootingMagSept2014/resources/30.htm
For a feature on David Higgins, click here: http://content.yudu.com/A3281g/ShootingMagSept2014/resources/64.htm
“Overall, the theme for this team is youth led by some stellar veterans,” said USA Shooting Director of Operations, Dave Johnson. “In my time with USA Shooting, I have to say this is the youngest group I can remember. Coaches and staff will be working hard to get the team prepared for the first Olympic Quota event of the 2016 cycle. We have been preparing our emerging elite athletes for over two years for this event and we have seen very promising results in all events. I look forward to the World Championships with Team USA.”
Our athletes had a lot to say as they prepare for their big moment. See what they said about the World Championship opportunity by clicking here.
Stay tuned for Friday when we preview the non-Olympic events and USA Shooting Team members in their own special preview.
Image courtesy USA Shooting