The Road to Rio goes through Ohio for a few American shooters this weekend.
The final round of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun will take place June 3-5 in Port Clinton, Ohio. This is the final U.S. Olympic Team qualifying trials for any shooting discipline.
Fifteen shooters so far have qualified to represent Team USA at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. The total number of qualified athletes will this weekend reach 20.
Two athletes this week will be selected for men’s air rifle and one athlete each for men’s air pistol, women’s air rifle and women’s air pistol. In addition to those five, Virginia Thrasher and Jay Shi will also compete in Rio in air rifle and air pistol, respectively. Thrasher has already qualified for the Rio Games in three-position rifle and Shi qualified in free pistol, and both will get double starts at the Games as they have earned the minimum qualification score internationally in their airgun events.
Points garnered at the first round of the trials last December in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will not carry over to this match.
“It’s kind of exciting, but I have to think of it as a whole new, fresh thing,” said Sarah Scherer, a 2012 Olympian in women’s air rifle. “You have to put on a whole new game face. As an athlete you have to be used to dealing with pressure, and obviously there will be some pressure at this competition.”
Only 1.9 points separated second-place Scherer from her former TCU teammate Sarah Beard in air rifle at the first round of trials. Scherer said she’s reflected to 2012 when she made the Olympic squad at this same venue — the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s north location at Camp Perry.
“I’ve been thinking about that moment of making the 2012 team, and also my preparation for this year, and tapping in to those has been helpful,” said Scherer, who finished seventh at the London Games.
Scherer made a remarkable comeback just to get to this point. She said eight herniated discs led to two back surgeries and her retirement from the sport. However, after a yearlong hiatus, she got back into it and finished that close second at the first stage of 2016 Olympic Trials. She said regardless of how things go, she’s retiring for good after this Olympic cycle because of ongoing back problems.
“For me it’s a big deal to retire after this Olympics whether I make it or not,” said Scherer, who’s 25. “A year ago when I was forced to retire, it was frustrating because I felt at the peak of my game. Most people don’t get to come back, so I’m going to make the best of it.”
The top 10 individuals from the first stage of trials advanced to this weekend’s final stage. Each discipline will consist of three qualification rounds and three finals.
The last American to win a medal in men’s air pistol was Jason Turner, who won a bronze medal in 2008, and the last medalist in women’s air rifle was Nancy Johnson, who won gold in 2000. The United States has never won an Olympic medal in men’s air rifle or women’s air pistol.
Men’s Air Rifle
Garrett Spurgeon led the group at the first trials stage with 1,885.6 points, nearly 10 points ahead of Lucas Kozeniesky. Ivan Roe was a close third, while Ryan Anderson, Bryant Wallizer, Daniel Lowe, Dempster Christenson, Thomas Csenge and George Norton all finished in a tight cluster behind them in Colorado. The top two will get the nods to Rio.
Women’s Air Rifle
Sarah Beard won only one of the three rounds at the first round of trials, and Scherer won the other two, but Beard had enough points to win the competition. High-school student Rhiann Travis trails Scherer by just under 10 points going into Ohio.
Men’s Air Pistol
Will Brown scorched the field at the first stage of trials, winning all three rounds and notching a 17-point win over the next competitor, James Henderson. Jay Shi, Brian Beaman and Nick Mowrer were next in line, though Shi will not compete at this week's trials as he has already been granted his spot and Henderson is not competing due to health reasons.
Women’s Air Pistol
This competition had the closest finish at the first stage of the trials as Courtney Anthony edged Alexis Lagan by one point. Lydia Paterson is nine points back in third, while 2008 Olympian Brenda Silva finished a distant fourth.
Scott McDonald has 18 years of 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.