Colorado Springs, CO -(AmmoLand.com)- To win a world championship is special no matter the place. But as a shotgun athlete, to do so in Italy, in the center of the shotgun world, is life altering.
That glory is what 30 U.S. team athletes will be in pursuit of when the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Championships get underway Friday, September 11 in Lonato, Italy.
A 2005 World Championship title on this same range propelled Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) to the greatness he’s found ever since having now won back-to-back Olympic titles in Skeet. He’s looking for a similar result this time around and nothing he’s done already in 2015 discourages the notion he’s the man to beat coming in. He proved as much during the August World Cup stop in Gabala, Azerbaijan, where he earned another World Cup gold medal. He also earned gold to begin the year in Acapulco, Mexico, shooting the perfect match in not dropping a target in 157 straight shots in qualifying, semifinals and finals. His win in Gabala sewed up his third straight Olympic nomination, but he wants a win in Lonato to jump start a quest for an unprecedented third straight Olympic gold.
“Winning my first World Championship title in Lonato back in '05 helped me realize that I could compete with and beat anyone in the World,” Hancock acknowledged. “Being able to win any title is rewarding, but going back to the range where I won my first Worlds will have me expecting another.”
Hancock is just one of three U.S. athletes to earn a world title on Italian soil joining Terry Carlisle, who did so in Women’s Skeet back in 1985, and Olympian Josh Richmond who was a Junior World Champion in Double Trap the same year as Hancock.
Sweetening the pot is the unquestioned rivalry between the two shotgun powerhouse countries. In the history of the sport, Italy stands atop both medal standings for World Cups and World Championship medals. The U.S. trails in second and the competition outside those two hasn’t been close. In 2015 World Cup performances, Italy holds a three-medal advantage over the Americans, 14-11. At the 2014 World Championships, Italy, by virtue of its six team titles, defeated the U.S. in the medal count, 13-11.
“Whenever you are competing against the Italians it will always be tough competition,” Hancock admits. “They have an extremely good pedigree of athletes and coaches that have proven to be elite. When you are competing against an Italian on Italian soil, it's one of the hardest things ever! But thankfully, I love Italy and I am very good friends with some of the Italian greats, so it makes going there and trying to beat them that much more fun!”
Set to contend for Team USA is a mix of veteran ability, World Championship medalists and a talented junior mix. Joining Hancock are three other Olympic veterans including five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode (El Monte, California). The highly-prized Olympian hasn’t been nearly as successful at World Championships having earned a medal of each color in 12 appearances. She’ll be joined on the squad by four-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Glenn Eller (Houston, Texas) and two-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein (Eagle River, Alaska). Eller will be looking to add to his collection of four World Championship medals while Cogdell-Unrein will be seeking a first in her sixth appearance.
Just how deep is the U.S. Shotgun program currently? Eighteen different athletes will be competing at this World Championships that weren’t part of the action at the 2014 World Championships in Granada, Spain.
Four of the 10 events holding the greatest intrigue due to their quota and Olympic selection implications include Men’s and Women’s Trap, Women’s Skeet and Men’s Double Trap.
The U.S. still longs for an Olympic quota in Men’s Trap and is hoping to avoid a second straight Olympic Games with no qualifiers in that event. This World Championship is the final opportunity to earn an Olympic country quota. Set for that pursuit is Jake Wallace (Castaic, California), Myles Walker (Elkhorn, Wisconsin) and Anthony Matarese (Pennsville, New Jersey).
Women’s Trap has secured one of the two quotas available with Kayle Browning (Wooster, Arkansas) knocking on that door four times already this season. She was two targets off the pace needed to earn a spot in the Finals in Gabala. She was fourth in Acapulco, after losing in a shoot-off to Cogdell-Unrein to enter the gold-medal match. Needing a win at the Pan American Games in Toronto in July, she’d finish second following another shoot-off. At the Al Ain (UAE) World Cup she finished eighth, one target out of qualifying for Finals. Also a part of the solution could be Kimberley Bowers (Lafayette, California), a bronze medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Both U.S. quotas have been secured in Women’s Skeet, but there’s a race to nab automatic selection among the three U.S. participants that will be compelling and where the biggest competition will be against themselves and not the other countries. Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania), a Junior World Championship bronze medalist in 2011, reached the 30-point threshold needed with a silver-medal performance in Gabala. If she’s the highest finisher, she’ll earn a spot on the 2016 Olympic Team outright. Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, Louisiana) is hoping for a top-six finish and no teammates with a similar ranking and Olympic nomination would be hers. Rhode needs a top-three finish or better and no teammate inside the top-six to earn a sixth straight Olympic nomination.
With two quotas also secured in Double Trap, the greatest competition Eller and Derek Haldeman (USAMU/Sunbury, Ohio) will face will be against one another. Eller’s recent win in Gabala pushed him ahead of Haldeman, 25-20. Still in pursuit of the necessary 30 point threshold it takes to earn outright selection, each of them will be looking for a top performance. Haldeman needs to finish ahead of Eller and a top-four finish to accomplish the task, while a better performance than his USAMU teammate inside the top-six would get the job done for Eller. The third open competitor is Chris Wilkoski (Centerburg, Ohio) who emerged out of the mix that included Olympic veterans Jeff Holguin (Yorba Linda, California) and Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania).
Also competing are skeet shooters Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida) and Phillip Jungman (Caldwell, Texas), Junior World Championship medalists from a year ago. Vizzi won a junior world title in 2014, following a silver medal in 2013 and hopes to close out her junior career with an impressive three-year run. Jungman was a bronze medalist at the 2014 World Championships. Against top-level world competition in May at the Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany, both Vizzi and Jungman earned silver medals. That event also saw the breakout of Emily Hampson (Saint Charles, Missouri) who fought her way past teammate Cheyenne Waldrop (Forest Hill, California) for the gold medal. Jesse Haynes-Lewis (Nahant, Massachusetts) also earned a trip into the Finals and finished fifth, leading his team featuring fellow World Team members Dale Royer (Jackson, Montana) and Hank Garvey (Newburyport, Massachusetts) to a second-place team result.
Follow all the action including results and live finals coverage on the ISSF website: http://www.issf-sports.org/competitions.
U.S. World Championships Roster:
|Myles Walker (Elkhorn, Wisconsin)||Ryne Barfield (Poulan, Georgia)|
|Jake Wallace (Castaic, California)||Dustin McGowen (Greenville, Arkansas)|
|Anthony Matarese (Pennsville, New Jersey)||Logan Mountain (Palmdale, California)|
|Corey Cogdell-Unrein (Eagle River, Alaska)||Emily Hampson (Saint Charles, Missouri)|
|Kayle Browning (Wooster, Arkansas)||Ellie Roditis (McKenzie, Tennessee)|
|Kimberley Bowers (Lafayette, California)||Grace Hambuchen (Maumelle, Arkansas)|
|Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia)||Phillip Jungman (Caldwell, Texas)|
|T.J. Bayer (College Station, Texas)||Zach McBee (Brady, Texas)|
|Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas)||Christian Elliott (Greenwood, Indiana)|
|Kim Rhode (El Monte, California)||Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida)|
|Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, Louisiana)||Katie Jacob (Rochester, Michigan)|
|Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania)||Sydney Carson (North Liberty, Indiana)|
|Chris Wilkoski (Centerburg, Ohio)||Dale Royer (Jackson, Montana)|
|Derek Haldeman (USAMU/Sunbury, Ohio)||Jesse Haynes-Lewis (Nahant, Massachusetts)|
|Glenn Eller (USAMU/Houston, Texas)||Hank Garvey (Newburyport, Massachusetts)|
2015 World Championships Schedule:
Friday, Sept. 11
- Women’s & Jr. Women’s Trap (Qualifying + Finals)
- Men’s & Jr. Men’s Trap (Qualifying)
Saturday, Sept. 12
- Men’s & Jr. Men’s Trap (Qualifying + Finals)
Sunday, Sept. 13
- Women’s & Jr. Women’s Skeet (Qualifying + Finals)
Monday, Sept. 14
- Double Trap (Qualifying + Finals)
Tuesday, Sept. 15
- Men’s Skeet Pre-Event Training
Wednesday, Sept. 16
- Men’s & Jr. Men’s Skeet (Qualifying)
Thursday, Sept. 17
- Men’s & Jr. Men’s Skeet (Qualifying + Finals)
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