Every four years the world gathers for a showcase of marksmanship unlike any other in the vast makeup of the shooting sports world. It is an environment in which there is no forgiveness for poor performance and where nothing but big results guarantees you a chance to stand among the best.
As the 51st International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Championship came to a close Friday evening in Granada, Spain, reflection of success shined as brightly as the medals in the fading Spanish sun for the USA Shooting Team who gathered 17 medals, two Olympic quotas and celebrate four World Champions and a team champion.
To have not won more means only one thing. The rest of the world, despite our sometimes isolated idealism that only Americans own guns, have got this marksmanship thing figured out too. And when numerous medals are at stake—as many as 45 in any one Olympic Games—you can be assured that other countries, particularly those that finished ahead of us in the medal count like China, Russia, Germany, Italy and France, put tremendous amount of resources and development into stockpiling talent.
Over 2000 athletes from 94 countries competed in 15 Olympic and 39 non-Olympic events over the past 12 days with 64 Olympic quota places being distributed to the best finalists during the event, opening the qualification path leading to Rio 2016.
Twenty-four of the 81 U.S. athletes that participated in this World Championships did stand among the best as medal winners. Nine came by way of the individual variety and another 15 got a medal as part of a team event. Another five athletes nearly got a medal as part of numerous top-10 performances put forth by the USA Shooting Team. World Champions Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania) and Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas) secured the two Olympic quotas for the U.S. at this event.
In shotgun, National Team coach Todd Graves’ biggest fear was that it would be hard to duplicate results here that his team had achieved throughout a season highlighted by superlatives and superiority. Eight medals over a two day span pretty much put that notion to rest as the USA Shooting Shotgun Team flexed its muscle over the course of the World Championships. In the end, 11 medals in all were won with three World Champions including Richmond, Drozd and Dania Vizzi, a Junior World Champs silver medalist in Ian Rupert and bronze medalist in Phillip Jungman, six other top-10 performers, six team medalists, and one world record (Junior Women’s Skeet Team). In conclusion, the performance in Granada erased any doubt that this will go down as one of the greatest years in history of any competitive shotgun program in the world.
You want to know how you lift a program. You go out and win not one, but two, World titles in your sport and see what happens. That’s effectively what 20-year-old Alex Chichkov has done with a performance for the ages. The top individual performance out of this World Championships was engineered by a junior athlete in a discipline long in need of a standout performer. In winning world titles in both Sport and Standard Pistol, Chichkov became the first U.S. pistol athlete, open or junior, to ever win two World Championship titles at one event. Even within the storied rifle program is it all that common, particularly since 1972. Glenn Dubis won two world titles in 1990, the last USA Shooting Team member to accomplish the feat until today. Chichkov is just the fifth junior all-time since events began in pistol in 1989 to earn multiple world titles in a single event.
The rifle squad was admittedly young coming into the World Championships. They leave Granada with the experience of a big-time match that will serve them well in pursuit of Rio. Recognize that this team is a work in progress after the retirement of team stalwarts in Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray (Lebanon, Pennsylvania), Jason Parker (Omaha, Nebraska), now an Assistant Team Coach, and the injury withdrawal to perhaps the team’s top gun currently on the women’s side in Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts).
Four near misses and the results could have been different. Reya Kempley in 300m Prone missed a medal by one point despite shooting a better score than all competitors and registering more center 10s than anyone else. Similarly, Amy Sowash finished one point out in Women’s 50-meter Three-Position. Michael McPhail, a 2012 Olympian, was .3 points away from a spot in the finals of Men’s 50m Prone. Similar to Kempley, two-time Olympian Eric Uptagrafft had more points in the two days of his 300m Prone event than anyone else, and tied with McPhail on overall points during the qualification only to lose out on a medal by three center 10s.
But there were medals too. Junior shooter Katie Bridges earned a bronze medal in women’s prone while Lorelie Stanfield finished just behind in fourth. Another junior, Mindy Miles made the Women’s Air Rifle final and finished eighth. Erin McNeil scored two top-10 finishes in 300-meter including a bronze on the final day in Three-Position. McPhail would be successful in capturing his first ever individual World Championship medal in 300m Prone while also teaming up with Uptagrafft and Joe Hein for team silver in the event.
“This ISSF World Championship in Granada has been a great sporting event,” ISSF President Olegario Vazquez Raña said. “We’ve witnessed excellent competitions, and extraordinary results scored by our athletes. The new finals introduced after the 2012 Olympic Games brought drama and emotion into our sport. The atmosphere during the competitions, here in Granada, has been great.”
During today’s Closing Ceremony, the Royal Spanish Shooting Federation returned the ISSF flag to Raña, who then handed it to the representatives of the Korea Shooting Federation and the city of Changwon, where the 52nd ISSF World Championship will be held in 2018.
The World Championship is over, but the ISSF Shooting Sport season continues as the best shooters of the world are now heading to Gabala, Azerbaijan, where the 2014 ISSF World Cup Final in Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun events will be held October 21-28. There, World Champs medalists will meet the World Cup title defenders and the top performers of this year’s World Cup series.
U.S. Gold (6)
Alex Chichkov – Gold, Jr. Men’s Standard Pistol
Alex Chichkov – Gold, Jr. Men’s Sport Pistol
Josh Richmond – Gold, Men’s Double Trap
Brandy Drozd – Gold, Women’s Skeet
Dania Vizzi- Gold, Jr. Women’s Skeet
Team Jr. Women’s Skeet – Gold (Houston, Vizzi, Carson)
U.S. Silver (5)
Ian Rupert – Silver, Jr. Men’s Double Trap
Team Men’s Double Trap – Silver (Richmond, Eller, Holguin)
Team Men’s 300m Prone Rifle – Silver (McPhail, Hein, Uptagrafft)
Team Men’s Skeet – Silver (Hancock, Thompson, Perry)
Team Jr. Men’s Skeet – Silver (Jungman, Elliott, Gloria)
U.S. Bronze (6)
Katie Bridges – Bronze, Jr. Women’s Prone Rifle
Michael McPhail – Bronze, Men’s 300m Prone Rifle
Erin McNeil – Bronze, Women’s 300m Three-Position Rifle
Phillip Jungman – Bronze, Jr. Men’s Skeet
Team Women’s Skeet –Bronze (Drozd, Rhode, Dunn)
Team Jr. Double Trap – Bronze (Rupert, Wilkoski, Royer)
Other top-10 Individual Performances:
Lorelie Stanfield – 4th, Jr. Women’s Prone Rifle
Eric Uptagrafft – 4th, Men’s 300m Prone Rifle
Reya Kempley – 5th, Women’s 300m Prone Rifle
Sydney Carson – 5th, Jr. Women’s Skeet
Kim Rhode – 7th, Women’s Skeet
Mindy Miles – 8th, Jr. Women’s 10m Air Rifle
Alex Chichkov – 8th, Jr. Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol
Amber Culwell – 8th, Jr. Women’s Trap
Jeff Holguin – 9th, Men’s Double Trap
Erin McNeil – 9th, Women’s 300m Prone Rifle
Dale Royer – 10th, Jr. Men’s Double Trap
Ashley Carroll – 10th, Women’s Trap
Vincent Hancock – 10th, Men’s Skeet
Image courtesy USA Shooting