The climb to world prominence in the shooting sports isn't a some of the time thing, but rather a series of tests in which repeated perfection is the only true guarantee. For 30 of America's best shotgun athletes, their latest test is upon them with the start of the 2013 World Clay Target Championships set to get underway Monday, Sept. 16 in Lima, Peru.
For some like Olympic medalists and veterans Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Ga.), Frank Thompson (Alliance, Neb.), Glenn Eller (USAMU/Houston, Texas), Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Corey Cogdell (Eagle River, Alaska), the quest to remain atop the sports hierarchy has never been greater. For others like Ashley Carroll (Solvang, Calif.), T.J. Bayer (College Station, Texas) and Ian Rupert (Muncy, Pa.), it's time to see if these young shooting standouts can rise to another level on the world level.
"Our team has trained throughout this season for this moment in time," said USA Shooting National Team Coach and four-time Olympian Todd Graves. "I'm excited about the team we have in place and know that they've put themselves in a great position to be successful. We have the luxury of competing with a proven mix of veteran talent along with a fast-rising bunch of young competitors anxious to prove themselves. It's a group not willing to back down from anyone or anything and we hope the results prove that in the end."
Athletes were selected to the World Championships team following competition at the 2013 USAS Spring Selection Match this past May in Ft. Benning, Ga. The top-three men's and women's open and junior finishers were selected in each of the five disciplines.
Fifteen of the 30 qualifying athletes set to compete in Lima, were on the team as well in 2011 that brought home eight medals overall and finished second behind Russia for total medals. In World Championship competitions, the U.S. has earned a combined (Open & Junior) 238 medals all-time and stands behind Italy who has earned 280 medals. In junior events, the USA Shooting Team is tied with Italy with 82 overall medals while the next closest is Russia with 31.
With back-to-back Olympic gold medals, Hancock headlines a team comprised of five Olympians including three Olympic medalists and a team that's combined to win 38 World Cup medals overall. To go along with his Olympic hardware, Hancock has two World titles (2009, 2005) was the World Champs bronze medalist in 2007 and finished just out of the medal hunt in fifth in 2010. But the number 67 might be the motivating number he's looking at this month. That number represents his placement at the last World Championships and a constant reminder as to just how fleeting success can be in this sport. If he were to erase that number and climb to the top of the podium once again, he'd become the first U.S. Shotgun athlete to win three World titles in his career.
The 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Eller has been a proven commodity the past dozen years in the world of Men's Double Trap having amassed three individual World Champs medals including one of each color. In addition, he's been a part of four World Championship Team titles in the event and another bronze medal. He and Hancock have earned a combined 28 of the 38 World Cup medals represented on this 2013 World Champs team having earned 14 himself. As good as these stats are, Eller and his competition knows that he's only earned one of those medals (2011 World Champs Bronze) since his gold-medal triumph at the Beijing Olympic Games.
World Cup medalists aside from Hancock and Eller include double trap shooters Holguin and Rupert, trap shooters John Mullins (Port Orchard, Wash.), Cogdell and Rachael Heiden (Clinton, Mich.) as well as skeet shooter Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas).
Notable absentees include five-time Olympic medalist and 13-time World Champs team member Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.) along with 2012 Olympian and 2010 World Champion Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pa.). Those two have a combined to compete on 20 World Championship Teams. Rhode sat out Spring Selection match giving birth to son Carter on May 13. Richmond finished two targets back of third-place finisher and USAMU teammate Holguin.
Top junior performances at the World Championships have been a staple of the U.S. Team since 2001 and has been bolstered greatly since 2010 with support of the Dallas Safari Club (DSC). Since then the DSC has provided USA Shooting with grant support for international competitions, generally to support our junior teams to World Championships (with the exception of 2012 where the grant monies went to the pre-Olympic training camp). This year, DSC approved a grant of $30,000 to support USA Shooting's Junior Shotgun Team in Peru. The additional support has paid off with junior team athletes accounting for seven individual and eight team medals during that time along with 17 top-10 finishes.
With junior team members like reigning Junior World Champions Billy Crawford (Johnstown, Ohio) and Miranda Wilder (Diana, Texas) along with 2013 World Cup medalist Rupert and fast-rising skeet shooter Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Fla.) a part of the 2013 USA Shooting Team, the odds are good that more medal-worthy performances are to come.
2013 World Clay Target Championships Schedule
Monday, Sept. 16 - Wednesday, Sept. 18 - Men's & Women's Skeet
Friday, Sept. 20 - Men's Double Trap
Sunday, Sept. 22 - Tuesday, Sept. 24 - Men's & Women's Trap
For the complete schedule, click here: