Emil Milev will make his sixth Olympic appearance in rapid fire pistol at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after a win at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore on Friday in Fort Benning, Georgia, surpassing four other competitors to earn his ticket to Brazil.
It will mark Milev’s second trip to the Olympic Games representing the United States and his sixth overall. He competed for his native Bulgaria in four Olympics, including a silver-medal appearance at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
At 47 years old (turning 48 next month), Milev is the oldest 2016 U.S. Olympic qualifier of the 69 to date. He is also the second-ever U.S. Olympic shooter to qualify for six Games, behind William McMillan, who appeared at every Games but one from 1952-1976. McMillan represented the U.S. at all six of his Olympic appearances and won gold in 1960.
Milev opened the qualifier by scoring 585 on Wednesday to hold a six-point advantage over Alexander Chichkov. He padded that lead on Thursday, posting a 587 for an aggregate of 1,184, 17 points up on Chichkov. In addition, Milev’s win in Thursday’s final was only one hit shy of matching the finals world record of 35 hits.
With his sixth Olympic team selection securely in hand, Milev wrapped up his trials competition with a flourish, surpassing the world record of 35 hits in a final to score 37, serving notice that he aiming for a podium finish in Rio. He had a score of 589 today and closed out with an aggregate score of 1,779.
“I did not expect the high scores that I put up here,” he said in a video interview published by USA Shooting he finished the competition Friday. “That makes me feel good about the approaching season and the Olympics.”
If Milev medals in Rio, it would be the first for the U.S. in the discipline since William McMillan won gold at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games. Milev also would become the first men’s rapid fire pistol shooter to claim his second Olympic medal 20 years after his first. Germany’s Ralf Schumann won silvers 20 years apart (in Seoul 1988 shooting for East Germany and Beijing 2008 for Germany), but he bridged that gap with three gold medals (1992, 1996 and 2004).
After taking up air pistol when he was 16, Milev discovered rapid fire pistol a year later and has remained with the discipline ever since. A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, he represented his native country at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, but began to carve his niche in the sport in 1994 when he won the world championship silver medal.
He enjoyed great success in the late 1990s, earning his silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games to go with a medal of the same hue at the 1995 World Cup Final. He took gold at the world cup event in Havana in 1996 and 1997, but barely missed the podium at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, placing fourth. He harvested a total of six world cup medals in the quadrennium after Sydney, including two golds in 2002, and added another in 2005 after placing eighth at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
He emigrated to the United States in 2009 and won a spot on the USA Shooting national team that year. Settling in Tampa, Florida, where he is an elementary school physical education teacher, Milev continued to have an impact on the international level, including a silver medal at the 2010 Championship of the Americas and gold at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games and the 2013 World Cup Final.