Home News Will Brown Competes ...

Will Brown Competes Against Brother, Father At Shooting Olympic Trials

By Darci Miller | Dec. 06, 2015, 12:50 a.m. (ET)

(L-R) Susan, Wyatt and Dan Brown pose on the podium with their medals at the 2015 USA Shooting National Championships in June 2015 in Fort Benning, Ga.

Will Brown competes in men's air pistol at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun on Dec. 5, 2015 in Colorado
Springs, Colo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Like many athletes, Will Brown attended the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun with his family there to cheer for him. But unlike most athletes, his family doubles as his competition.

The four-person Brown family – father Dan, mother Susan, and brothers Will (23) and Wyatt (21) – is competing at Trials.

All four are air pistol athletes. Susan notched an eighth-place finish in the first day’s women’s final and placed 11th Saturday. In the men’s competition, Will won both finals contested so far, while Wyatt placed 19th and 23rd (winning Saturday’s junior final), and Dan finished 28th and 33rd.

Will, a 2013 world cup gold medalist, earned Team USA its sole Olympic quota spot in men’s air pistol for the Rio 2016 Games. He sits in second place, behind James Henderson, going into the final day of competition. The top 10 competitors in each of four events contested move on to the second stage of Olympic Trials in June.

How does an entire family end up on the range together?

“We all grew up (hunting),” father Dan said. “My dad was given a little single shot .22 when he was 8 years old, and Will was given that same gun when he was 10.”

Eventually, Dan and Susan’s interest in hunting led them to an interest in handguns. They began taking classes at a local range to learn how to handle them properly, then progressed to shooting in a league. Will eventually joined his parents in the league.

“We just happened to run into a guy who’s a rifle coach, and he introduced me to international air rifle,” Will said.

At 14 years old, Will was the first of his family members to begin shooting competitively. Wyatt followed in his brother’s footsteps two years later. Dan joined his boys on the line after realizing he couldn’t handle the stress of being a spectator.

“A shooting competition is really difficult to watch,” Dan said. “It’s really difficult, especially as a parent, to watch. And when we used to have these competitions and shoot on paper, it was really difficult for me to sit back there and watch the targets coming in and trying to judge, ‘Is that an 8? A 9? A 10?’ And it was like, you know what, this is way easier on my system to just go shoot instead of watching.”

Susan has been competing for five years, and, as the only woman in the group, she often misses out on what the rest of the family is doing while she’s on the line.

“It’s hard on me because I’m always wondering how they’re doing,” she said. “I’m not as bad as I was at first. I’m getting to where I can focus on what I’m doing. But the first couple of years it was really hard, because I really wanted to be able to go watch them in their finals!”

What Susan doesn’t have to worry about, however, is shooting directly against someone she wants to succeed. Wyatt and Will have found themselves in finals against each other several times. While very stressful for their parents to watch, it’s just as hard for them.

“It’s pretty difficult for us to shoot next to each other because we care an awful lot about how the other one does,” Wyatt said. “If you’re next to each other, you can see when someone’s struggling. It’s a lot different than shooting next to someone you want to beat. To watch them struggle helps you gain a little bit of confidence and be more sure of what you’re doing. But when I’m shooting next to (Will) and I can see he’s struggling a little bit, then it makes me a little bit worried and distracts me from what I’m doing.”

Far from having a sibling rivalry, Will and Wyatt are a team. None of the Browns let the stress of a competition get to them – all say their goal is to go to Rio to watch Will compete – and the morning before a competition feels just like any other morning.

“If we’re all together, it’s the same if we’re going to a competition or if we’re going hunting,” said Dan. “Everybody has a job to do, everybody gets their stuff together. They’re not concerned with whether they get game or whether their brother gets game. It’s ‘I hope we get game.’ There’s no tension.”

Despite the stress of competing against family and watching family compete, the Browns don’t take for granted having their loved ones around.

“I haven’t shot very many big matches without family around, but I’ve shot a few, and it’s something that you don’t really notice the effect it has,” Wyatt said. “But I feel like when you’re off the line, it does change where your mind’s at and where your heart’s at.”