It’s hard to avoid this pun, but when Glenn Eller makes his fourth trip to the Olympic Games this summer in London in double trap shooting he will go with a target on his back.
Eller, a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit who trains in Ft. Benning, Ga., is the reigning gold medalist in the event, having won it all in Beijing in 2008. He earned the right to defend his title at the 2012 Games in London (pending approval from the U.S. Olympic Committee) with his victory at the Olympic Trials in May in Tucson, Ariz.
Also qualifying for Team USA in double trap is Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond who won a gold medal at the Lonato World Cup in Italy last month.
Although it was a long road back after a couple of years of inconsistencies, Eller feels he is firmly in the catbird seat as the defending champ. And he’s happy as can be about it.
“I think that’s a good place to be because they’re looking at you and wanting to beat you,” Eller said. “All they’re doing is they’re beating themselves already.”
“(At the Olympic Games,) most people they’ve had some success internationally, they’ve done some things,” Eller added. “But until you understand the pressure of the Olympics, unless you’ve done it before, you don’t have the understanding of what it takes to win at that level.”
That’s the confidence of a veteran speaking, and one who has come a long way from those first few rounds of practice as a boy. Eller always had the talent, but there were stepping stones that made him the man that all other shooters will be aiming for this summer.
One of those stepping stones came as a teenager, also in England. Eller was 14 when he became the first American to win the British Open Sporting Clay junior title, a championship that was fueled in part from watching the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He had watched those Games prior to that trip to England, and sad that it inspired him to take his craft to the next level.
Although it was years ago, there still remains familiarity with the English soil that could provide a bit of a boost in 2012.
“I’ve got a lot of good friends there that will come out to support me that I’ve gotten to know over the years,” Eller said. “My first major, major win I had was at the World English in ’96. … I think that was kind of the turning point where I went from being a decent shot to being world class.”
Yet, even world-class shooters require constant tinkering. Eller, now 30, admitted that it has been tougher to stay on top of his game as he gets older. He placed 12th in his Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000 and 17th four years later in Athens. Then came his gold medal in 2008.After he won gold in Beijing, he faced the difficult prospect of not just getting to the top but staying there. That is never easy; the ups and downs over the ensuing four years are a testament to the struggle.
Maturity goes a long way, however. Eller has figured a few things out in recent years and feels well equipped to duplicate his 2008 performance.
“From the start, it was just go out, repetition, just go do it and you don’t know how actually hard it is,” Eller said of his mindset earlier in his career. “I think the older you get you know how hard it is, you know the little tiny things that you have to work on. They creep in. (I’ve) been fighting little stuff since the last Olympics, turned into a bigger thing, but it wasn’t anything that I thought would’ve caused problems. I got through that, fixed that.
“I think the older you get the more you’re able to focus on those little details and make stuff work and figure out how to do it when it comes down to it.”
One such challenge Eller has had to contend with was the loss of the gun he used to win his gold medal in Beijing. He is not sure if the gun was stolen or misplaced en route to a World Cup event in Chile in March 2011, but either way, it was a huge loss, not just for sentimental reasons but for his familiarity with the gun at competitions.
An Australian shooter provided Eller with a replacement and Eller finished 11th. He has since moved on to a Beretta model which he plans to use in London.
In a sport so dependent on precision, the relationship between a shooter and his gun is not one to be taken lightly. For Eller to press on without the instrument that helped him earn the gold was not easy. It took thousands of rounds fired through the Beretta before he felt comfortable on the range again.
But now he seems ready to defend his gold medal.
Winning a gold medal is one thing. Getting back to defend it is another. That will give him plenty of drive this summer. Another motivational factor lies in the surrounding cast, which could help the United States improve upon its 2008 medal count of six (two gold, silver and bronze).
Eller is confident that “everyone that’s going is capable of winning a medal.” If and when they do, he will recognize the expression on their face.
“You stand up there, you pour your heart and soul into something, and to achieve a goal like winning an Olympic gold medal, all your emotions pour out,” Eller said.
Right now, with 50 days before the Opening Ceremony in London and before he fires his first shot, the prevailing emotion is confidence.Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Tony Lee is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.