USPSA Handgun Nationals – Getting To Know Your Top 5 – Athena Lee, 5th Place Open

Courtesy of our friends at the Women of USPSA blog.

WoUSPSA: Congratulations, Athena, on your Top 5 finish at the Smith & Wesson USPSA Open National Championships!  What did you think of the stages at this year’s Nationals?  Did you have a favorite?

Athena: Personally, I thought this year’s Nationals definitely had more mixed elements in it. There were more distance shots, tighter shots and of course, everyone’s favorite, shooting weak hand at partial targets placed at over 15 yards shots.

WoUSPSA: We all love that don’t we?  What do you think of the range/match location?

Athena: I really liked where the range was located. It was close to a lot of hotels and restaurants. You never run out of things to do while on your downtime in Vegas. I think it’s perfect!

WoUSPSA: How would you describe your performance? Were you happy with your match?

Athena: From the get go, I was not having a good match. It just seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. I was assessed a penalty for a popper that was left standing on my very first stage. I hit it, it didn’t fall and when it got calibrated, it fell. I had another penalty on my second stage, had a squib on my third stage, which, to this day, I can’t figure out how I did that but I am human after all and I make mistakes.

After zeroing the stage that I had a squib on, I just told myself to just go nuts on the remaining stages. But when I saw that it was the weak hand stage, I said, “Hmmm, I’ll go nuts AFTER this stage.” Kay Miculek, in her infinite wisdom, knew what I was going to do and she told me to NOT go nuts and just shoot. It was the first day. I’m glad I listened to her because I shot the last stage pretty solid and later when we were having lunch, I got a phone call saying that my time wasn’t written down on my squib stage and that I get a re-shoot. Again, I’m glad I listened to Kay.

WoUSPSA: Kay certainly has a lot of experience.  How early did you started training for the Nationals, and how much range time did you put in compared to dry firing?

Athena: I definitely shot way more matches this year compared to the last five years. I was feeling great because I’ve been working out non-stop since April 2009. My strength has more than doubled since then. I wanted to see how this was going to affect my shooting.  That’s why I signed up for match after match after match. It made me realize and remember how important shooting matches are (be it local or major). You learn so much about yourself as a shooter and as a person that you hope you can apply to the next competition.

WoUSPSA: Did you learn anything about yourself as a competitor?

Athena: I’ve learned so much more about myself this year. I’ve reminded myself that no matter how bad things look, it really isn’t as bad as it is. Things happen for a reason. I love to compete against the best out there. It’s what makes you a better shooter and a better person.

WoUSPSA: We couldn’t agree more!  So when you are in the heat of the battle, to stay energized, what is your snack and beverage of choice at a match?

Athena: There is always a giant bottle of water in my bag. I pack Lara Bars, nuts, and fruits like apples and bananas for a good pick me up-er.

WoUSPSA: Very healthy!  As a Top 8 contender, do you feel you should always have the choice to shoot with whomever you like?   What are the pros and cons of shooting with another squad vs. the Ladies?

Athena: The biggest match in our sport is the World Shoot. When you are in a top team like ours, you are going to be squadded with the best female shooters in the world. I look at being squadded with the best female shooters in our country as practice for the World Shoot. You will learn so much about yourself, about handling yourself under pressure, about strategizing, about working as a team. Plan for the inevitable.

WoUSPSA: Was this your last major match of the year or do you still have more competitions on your schedule?

Athena: Nationals is my last major match of the year. I am currently working on an exciting project that will be revealed soon ; )

WoUSPSA: Oooh! We can’t wait to hear about it!  With the match season rather lengthy, how do you typically unwind after all the matches have settled down?

Athena: I unwind by saying good-bye to my gun for about two months and going back 100% on lifting and working out without the fear of injuring myself before a match. I hope to crush my PR’s (personal record) and set new PR’s for self-satisfaction purposes. And maybe catch some broadway shows or something…

WoUSPSA: We hope you reach those goals and enjoy the time off.  What are your long-term competitive shooting goals?

Athena: For now, looking at 2011 is long term for me. I want to shoot well and do well at the World Shoot next year in Greece and help our team win another gold medal. I also want to help women get introduced and get better in our sport.

WoUSPSA: We’re excited about the World Shoot too!  So, let’s say you weren’t a competitive shooter, what do you think you would be doing?

Athena: I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for shooting. I think I would still be in the Philippines. Maybe take over my parents’ business or something like that.

WoUSPSA: Do you have any special talents or skills that you would like to share with us?

Athena: I am a CrossFit Level 1 Certified Instructor. CrossFit is currently my biggest passion next to shooting.

WoUSPSA: That’s quite an accomplishment! When you aren’t on the road or at the range, what’s one of your favorite activities to do when at home?

Athena: Hanging out with my boyfriend, Elliott, and playing with my cats, Charley and Murphy (free t-shirt to whoever gets it….)

WoUSPSA: Let us know who wins the shirt! You’ve had such a successful career that goes beyond just competing in the US.  What advice would you give to any new shooters starting out?

Athena: My advice is to have fun and enjoy it. Having fun makes shooting a lot easier.

WoUSPSA: Great stuff!  Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us.  Congratulations on both your finish and for making Team USA for the World Shoot!

Check out Athena as she rages through a few stages from the S&W USPSA Open Nationals:

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