Thirteen athletes, including three Olympians, came to the U.S. Army Marksmanship’s Home of Champions in Fort Benning, Georgia and earned their spots for the Pan American Games or two future World Cups during USA Shooting’s Rifle/Pistol Spring Selection Match. Airgun competition concluded Thursday after two days of fierce competition.
This match is selecting the competitors eligible to compete at the upcoming International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cups in Beijing, China and Munich, Germany; as well as for the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru later this summer. Top-two finishers earned Pan American Game Team selection, while top-3 earned World Cup Team spots.
The surprise of the match thus far has to be Miglena Todorova (Miranda, California) earning top honors in Women’s Air Pistol. Todorova is a former competitor for the Bulgarian National Team having last competed for them internationally at the 2006 World Championships. She’s now competing for Team USA and will look to earn USA Shooting an Olympic quota this year as she’s destined for Lima, Peru as a Pan Am Games Team member while also set to compete in the upcoming Beijing and Munich World Cups in preparation for that big match. Todorova joins another former Bulgarian who found much success in the American shooting scene as Emil Milev competed in two Olympic Games for Team USA after starring in three Olympic Games before that with Bulgaria. She earned her spot behind a top qualifying score of 574 she shot Thursday.
Nathalia Tobar (East Northport, New York), a former competitor for Colombia, will join Todorova on the Pan Am Games Team while Alexis Lagan (Boulder City, Nevada), who previously earned an Olympic Quota spot at last year’s Championship of America’s, will compete with Todorova and Tobar at the World Cups.
Olympians Nick Mowrer (Butte, Montana) and Lucas Kozeniesky (Fairfax, Virginia) earned Pan Am Games spots as well with Mowrer earning his nod in Air Pistol and Kozeniesky set to compete in Air Rifle. Mowrer earned a World Cup spot also and he’ll be competing alongside James Hall (Columbia, Missouri) at the Pan American Games, while Hunter Battig (Colorado Springs, Colorado) stepped up with a great performance to earn his first World cup opportunity, the only junior thus far to garner such reward. To do so, he had to defeat 2016 Olympian Jay Shi (Phoenix, Arizona) in a two-shot shoot-off as the 17-year-old Battig outshot the veteran Shi, 19.9 to 18.3. Mowrer will now try and earn selection in a completely different discipline of Three-Position Rifle, where he finished second at the last Selection match.
Kozeniesky was bested for World Cup selection by Tim Sherry (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit/Highlands Ranch, Colorado), Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) and Matt Rawlings (Wharton, Texas). Sherry was on top of his rifle game throughout including a highlight performance score of 630.9 in Wednesday’s Qualification match, a mark five points higher than any other competitor in the field.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist and West Virginia University senior Ginny Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) was able to earn her World Cup spot in Women’s Air Rifle. However, former Ole Miss rifle shooter, Ali Weisz (Belgrade, Montana) continues to exert her marksmanship skills, leading the pack in both Pan Am and World Cup Selection. Joining her in Lima will be good friend Mindy Miles (Weatherford, Texas).
Competition now shifts to the smallbore rifle/pistol events including Men’s and Women’s Three-Position Rifle, Women’s Sport Pistol and Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol with two Qualification matches and two Finals Friday and Saturday.
Spots at the ISSF World Cups and Pan American Games are of particular importance as these are some of the remaining opportunities to earn quotas for the Olympic Games. An Olympic quota is essentially a country’s ticket to participate in a specific event in the 2020 Olympic Games. Earning an Olympic quota in competition ensures the country a spot in that particular event, not necessarily the athlete. Rifle and Pistol athletes will then earn slots on the U.S. Olympic Team via a trials system which can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2FnccFI.
NOTE: Photo of U.S. Army Spc. Tim Sherry above courtesy of U.S. Army photos by Michelle Lunato
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