Four American shooters will earn berths to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games as the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun get underway this week. Stage Two of the shotgun trials starts Tuesday at the Delta Shooting Sports Complex in Tillar, Arkansas.
There is one spot available per event to the top overall finisher in women’s skeet, men’s skeet, women’s trap and men’s double trap. The U.S. failed to qualify for a spot in the men’s trap, although that event will be contested this week as well.
Results from Stage One of the trials last October in Arizona carry over to this week’s competition, and the winners will be the athletes with the highest point totals over the two stages.
Among the U.S. competitors vying for those spots in Rio is the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s skeet, sergeants from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a teenage girl trying to make her first Olympic team and a handful of close competitors.
Two-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein has been to a Super Bowl to watch her husband, Mitch Unrein, play. She said Olympic Trials could be more unnerving than America’s most popular sporting event.
“The Olympic Games is what we strive for every four years, and the trials are more stressful for me than the Olympics,” said Cogdell-Unrein, who won bronze in the women’s trap at the 2008 Games and competed at the 2012 Games. “I get butterflies in my stomach because we wait four years for this opportunity. But I want to get back to the Olympics and try to bring home another medal.”
Five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode has a five-target advantage after the first stage and begins Stage Two with a lead comfortable enough to make her the hands-on favorite to qualify for her sixth U.S. Olympic team. Rhode is the first American to medal at five consecutive Games in an individual sport. She won a silver medal in women’s skeet in 2008 and a gold medal in the event in 2012 after winning three Olympic medals in double trap, and most recently won a silver medal at the Rio world cup, which also served as the Olympic test event. Amber English, who was fourth at the test event, trails Rhode by five targets, while 16-year-old Katie Jacob trails by nine targets and Dania Vizzi trails by 12 targets. The Olympic Trials champion will join Morgan Craft, who already qualified after winning gold at the 2015 world championships.
Shooters this week will be aiming to join Vincent Hancock in Rio. Hancock, the only American to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in skeet shooting, which he did in 2008 and 2012, already wrapped up the first U.S. spot in the event through USA Shooting’s Olympic points system based on his world cup victories in 2015. Frank Thompson, a 2012 Olympian, and Hayden Stewart of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit are in the driver’s seat to join him, as both are tied in total points heading into this week. Nine other athletes are within 12 targets, including Phillip Jungman just two targets off the lead and Aaron Wilson and T.J. Bayer, who are tied but only trailing by four targets. Dustin Perry is five targets off the lead.
A trio of sergeants in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit — two of them Olympians — is very close going into Stage Two. Josh Richmond, a 2012 Olympian who just missed the finals of the Rio world cup, holds a small advantage over Derek Haldeman and 2008 Olympian Jeff Holguin. Haldeman led the way for most of Stage One, but Richmond shot well enough in each of the finals to take a three-target lead heading into Tillar. Holguin, who finished fourth at the Beijing 2008 Games, is slightly behind Haldeman.
Janessa Beaman leads the pack heading into Tillar, but she’s only three targets ahead of Cogdell-Unrein, the two-time Olympian who brought home Olympic bronze in 2008. Cogdell-Unrein has been more consistent in world events since the first stage of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last October. She said she feels confident after finishing eighth and 12th in world cups this year. Beaman finished 24th and 27th in world cup events. Ashley Carroll is only five targets behind Beaman.
2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Schedule
Tuesday, May 17 – skeet (75 targets); double trap official training
Wednesday, May 18 – skeet (50 targets) + final; double trap (150 targets) + final
Thursday, May 19 – skeet (75 targets); double trap (150 targets) + final
Friday, May 20 – skeet (50 targets) + final
Saturday, May 21 – trap official training
Sunday, May 22 – trap (75 targets)
Monday, May 23 – trap (50 targets) + final
Tuesday, May 24 – trap (75 targets)
Wednesday, May 25 – trap (50 targets) + final
Scott McDonald has 18 years experience in sports reporting and feature writing. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.