Sunday (September 7) marks two years to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and USA Shooting is excited about our prospects as we have Rio in Sight.
Looking Back…London 2012
USA Shooting history was made in January 2012 with the naming of the 2012 Paralympic Games Team. For the first time ever, USA Shooting sent athletes to compete in the Paralympic Games after having formed a Paralympic division following the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The U.S. was represented by Eric Hollen (Colorado Springs, Colorado) and SFC Josh Olson (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit / Spokane, Washington). Hollen placed 14th in P1 (Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1) and 23rd in P4 (Mixed 50m Free Pistol SH1). Olson placed 12th in R6 (Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1) and 28th in R3 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1).
Scene in ‘16
Not only are Paralympic shooting opportunities growing worldwide, but similar results are present within USA Shooting. From the program’s beginning in 2008 to two Paralympic competitors in London at the 2012 Paralympic Games, the program has grown tremendously in the past two years. Three Olympic Training Center resident athletes and the advent of U.S. Army’s Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Paralympic Section have strengthened the overall outlook.
Though robust changes in the rules governing the sport have brought some anxiety and uncertainty, USA Shooting looks to have a strong start on building its number of quota slots as qualification for the Paralympic Games began at the IPC Shooting World Championships in July with Mike Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) and McKenna Dahl (Arlington, Washington) earning quota slots for the U.S. in P3 (Mixed 25m Pistol SH1) and R4 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2) respectively. With three direct quota-eligible International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Shooting World Cups on the horizon, USA Shooting looks to have its largest shooting team ever represented in a Paralympic Games.
McKenna Dahl: The International Paralympic Committee named Dahl one of the “Top 10 Para-Athletes You Should Like Before 2016” noting “expect her to be huge come Rio 2016.” That’s tall billing for the recent high-school-graduate-turned- Olympic Training Center Resident Athlete who just over a year ago served as a Brownell Junior Ambassador as well as participated in the NRA’s Y.E.S. program and more recently in August 2013, claimed her first major gold medal of her budding Paralympic Rifle career at the IPC World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand. She also earned a quota slot for the 2016 Paralympic Games in R4 at the IPC Shooting World Championships in July.
Mike Tagliapietra: The IPC recently listed Tagliapietra, currently one of the top athletes in P3 (Mixed 25m Pistol SH1) as one of their “Top Pistol Shooters to Look Out For” at the IPC Shooting World Championships where he qualified for and competed in P1, P3 and P4 – the most events of any U.S. competitor.
Tagliapietra’s strongest event appears to be the P3 (Mixed 25m Pistol SH1) event in which he earned is 2016 Paralympic quota slot at this year’s World Championships. At the 2013 USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle/Pistol, Tagliapietra shot a score in this event that would have put him in the Finals at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Depth of Talent: The quota slots earned by Tagliapietra and Dahl were in events the U.S. had not qualified for at the 2012 Paralympic Games, but with three additional opportunities for athletes to earn quota slots, the possibility of the U.S. earning up to the maximum additional 10 slots isn’t too far off.
With the growth of the Paralympic Section of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, several strong Army shooters are in the mix to earn quota slots as well; including Prone Rifle specialists Sgt. John Joss (Corsicana, Texas) and Spc. Josh Budd (New Britain, Connecticut), as well as Pistol athletes Sgt. Eric Trueblood (Columbus, Georgia) and Staff Sgt. Shaun Tichenor (Brainerd, Minnesota).
Joss, the current American Record holder in R3 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1) and R6 (Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1) won gold in R3 last summer at IPC World Cup Bangkok. Joss also defended his National Championship title in R3 (Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone) in June at the USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle/Pistol.
Tichenor, who earned the first two Finals starts of his career at IPC World Cup USA this year in P1 (Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1) and P4 (Mixed 50m Pistol SH1).
Only 150 quota slots (100 male, 50 female) are available for Paralympic shooters in 12 medal events, marking the first quota increase for the sport in 25 years. Slots are awarded via direct quota allocation to the nation, versus the previous Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) slot allocation. When an athlete wins a quota, it guarantees the nation a place at the Paralympic Games in that specific event, not the athlete.
Only one athlete can obtain one quota slot for a nation in any event and a nation can be allocated a maximum of 12 quota slots (maximum of eight from one gender). The 2014 IPC Shooting World Championships marked the first opportunity for athletes to earn quota slots. The next three opportunities will be select IPC Shooting World Cups throughout 2015.
Athletes selected to compete on the USA Shooting Team at the 2016 Paralympic Games will be selected by a committee based on Paralympic competition performance. The Team will be named on or by July 31, 2016.
Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host a Paralympic Games. More than 4,350 athletes from 160 nations are expected to compete in 22 sports. The 2016 Paralympic Games, Sept. 7-18, follow the 2016 Olympic Games, Aug. 5-21, in the same venues.
Jessica Delos Reyes
Logo courtesy USA Shooting