USA Shooting’s shotgun program put the exclamation point on a year for the record books at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Finals in Gabala, Azerbaijan. In total, eight athletes across all three shooting disciplines represented the team with all but one making their event final.
The season-ending international shooting event included 154 athletes participating from 39 countries. Only the best qualified to be in Gabala as the 2013 World Cup Final title defenders and the World Championship medalists met the top-8 athletes of each event, selected through this year’s ISSF World Cup Series. Seven other U.S. athletes were invited to participate given performances in 2014 but declined the opportunity.
Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, California) provided the marquee moment with a great performance in Double Trap, earning the coveted crystal globe trophy. Holguin was joined in the event semifinals by his Army Marksmanship Unit brethren in current World Champion Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania) and Glenn Eller (Houston, Texas).
Eller tied for the lead in qualifying with a 146 but would settle for fifth after losing in a shoot-off for advancement to the bronze-medal match. The World Champion Richmond would be edged out of the gold-medal match after losing a three-way shoot-off and then would finish fourth after falling 26 to 28 targets to China’s Binyuan Hu. Holguin and China’s Hao Wang would square-off in the gold-medal final. Holguin would drop one target on the first pair he saw in the final only to rebound without a blemish for the rest of the round while his opponent dropped four overall. The win gave Holguin one of the two trophies he desires most and also added to the most impressive international competition season to date in his illustrious career.
“It feels awesome,” Holguin told the ISSF after hearing the National Anthem played. “This is one of the two trophies I’ve not been able to collect yet and now I can scratch it off the list. The other is the Olympic medal but hopefully we’ll be able to take care of that here shortly.”
Holguin provided yet more proof of U.S. domination in double trap. Consider this: in 2014 alone the team won five World Cup medals, one more than any other country. Additionally, the team can also boast of having the World Champ along with the Olympic quota that came along with it, the World Cup Finals Champ, the Junior World Champs silver medalist along with team silver and bronze (junior) World Champs medals and three medals from the Championship of the Americas. Since 2010, the program has earned 13 World Cup medals, crowned five World Champions (3 open, 2 junior) and two World Cup Finals winners and earned another nine World Championship medals (2 individual, seven team).
Earning the other medal was trap shooter Janessa Beaman (Colorado Springs), who excelled in Azerbaijan earning perhaps the hardest fought medal (silver) of her career on little sleep and no patience after a trip that included itinerary confusion, a missed flight, long delays, an airline strike and a broke-down bus.
In women’s skeet, Haley Dunn (Eddyville, Iowa) was in top form equaling a world record mark of 74/75 in qualifying Sunday despite miserable, foggy conditions. She’d have to wait until Monday to shoot the semifinals though due to those conditions and wouldn’t be able to regain her form while shooting 11/16 in the semifinals to finish sixth.
Recapping one of the best year’s in the history of the U.S. shotgun program includes three earned Olympic quotas, 13 World Cup medals, two World Cup Finals medals and a World Championship performance that saw 11 medals with three World Champions including Richmond, Brandy 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).
Amy Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky) and Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Florida) both earned a trip to their event finals. Competing in Women’s Three-Position Rifle, Sowash shot a 587 to qualify fourth and would hold that finishing spot during the eight-person final as well. Competing in Rapid Fire Pistol, the reigning World Cup Finals winner Milev finished fourth overall despite battling gun issues throughout Stage 2 and the event final. Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs) also competed in Rapid Fire Pistol but never did receive his pistol and was forced to use a borrowed pistol for his match, which ultimately didn’t give him the result he desired in finishing 12th overall.
Image courtesy USA Shooting