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Years of toil and preparation will come down to just 12 days of intense competition for seven athletes that will secure 2012 U.S. Olympic Team nominations at the upcoming 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore (.22 caliber), May 31 – June 11. In conjunction with the USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle and Pistol, nearly 240 athletes will attend in hopes of realizing their Olympic dreams at the historic ranges of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in Fort Benning, Ga.
Today we preview the Pistol events followed by the Rifle preview on Wednesday.
With just 63 days until the start of the Olympic Games, members of the USA Shooting Pistol Team will embark on the last leg of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Shooting to decide the remaining four spots.
In the pistol disciplines, the USA Shooting Team earned the following four quotas (Olympic participation spots) during 2011: Women’s 25m Sport Pistol, Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol (2) and Men’s 50m Free Pistol. The top athletes in those three events will join four-time Olympian Sergeant First Class Daryl Szarenski (WCAP/Seale, Ala.) and 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalist Jason Turner (Rochester, N.Y.) to comprise the 2012 U.S. Olympic Pistol Team.
“Well I wish this would get easier,” said Szarenski. “But there are a lot of good shooters and I am going to have to bring my “A” game. We will see how I stand at the end.”
“In this quadrennial, the pistol team’s international success saw significant improvements,” said National Pistol Coach Sergey Luzov. “Additionally, our athlete development pool has strengthened and will bring tougher competition for the available quotas in the Trials.”
Olympic selection will be determined through three courses of fire and the top two finals. The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore begins with competition in Men’s 50m Free Pistol on May 31. Szarenski and Turner, though already on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for Air Pistol, will shoot for their second event. Both are accomplished free pistol shooters having combined to make seven Olympic Teams and will provide exciting competition. Not to be overlooked is U.S. Olympic Training Center Resident Athlete Nick Mowrer (Butte, Mont.). Mowrer is the reigning national champion and has been gaining international experience on the World Cup circuit as of late including earning a spot in his first career World Cup final recently in Milan. All three shooters have participated in an International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Final in either London or Milan.
Shooting for the lone slot in Women’s Sport Pistol begins on June 3. Top-ranked Petty Officer First Class Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.) looks to join husband Eric Uptagrafft (USAMU/Phenix City, Ala.) on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Uptagrafft won the Women’s Sport Pistol quota through a gold medal performance at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She will also have the home-field advantage shooting on the Pool Range complex. Uptagrafft will have to fend off U.S. Olympic Training Center Resident Athlete Teresa Meyer (Dearborn, Mich.). Meyer came within two points of Uptagrafft’s score at the 2011 National Championships. Four-time Olympian Libby Callahan (Columbia, S.C.) finished third behind Meyer and Uptagrafft at Nationals, but brings a wealth of experience on the line that could put her on her fifth Olympic Team.
In Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol, Olympians Keith Sanderson (WCAP/Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Fla.) will be hard to beat. Different from the 2008 Trials, rapid fire athletes will shoot the new finals format this year. Rather than total scores using decimal points, each shot fired during the final will earn a “hit” (equivalent to one point) if it is greater than 9.7 points. Sanderson, who finished fifth at the 2008 Olympic Games, is ready to return to the Olympic stage. Both have been tearing up the World Cup scene the past two years with a total of three medals, six appearances in the finals and 10 top-10 finishes. Milev will attempt to earn his first Olympic berth as an American citizen. Formerly a member of the Bulgarian Shooting Team, Milev was the silver medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games and finished in the top-10 at the 2000 and 2004 Games. Sergeant Brad Balsley (USAMU/Uniontown, Pa.), the silver medalist in last year’s national championships, looks for his first Olympic berth on his home range.
“My training has been validated by my scores in practice and World Cups,” said Sanderson. “I’ve had a recurring malfunction issue, but everything is ready for Trials now. I have not shot the new ISSF finals format in Fort Benning yet, so I’m looking forward to that opportunity. Our pistol team has been performing great lately and I know the competition will be both fun and challenging.”
2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials & USA Shooting National Championships Pistol Schedule
May 31-June 2: Men’s 50m Free Pistol
June 3-4: Men’s 10m Air Pistol (Olympians decided in February 2012)
June 3-5: Women’s 25m Sport Pistol
June 6-8: Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol
June 7: Women’s 10m Air Pistol (no Olympic quota)
June 10: Men’s Standard Pistol (non-Olympic event)
June 10-11: Men’s Center Fire Pistol and Junior Men’s Sport Pistol (non-Olympic events)
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for all sports is a collaborative, three-way partnership between the U.S. Olympic Committee, the national governing bodies and the local organizing committees. All athletes nominated to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team must be approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
About USA Shooting:
USA Shooting, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, was chartered by the United States Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body for the sport of shooting in April 1995. USA Shooting’s mission is to prepare American athletes to win Olympic medals, promote the shooting sports throughout the U.S. and govern the conduct of international shooting in the country. Check us out on the web at www.usashooting.org and on Twitter at twitter.com/USAShooting.