Skeet shooter Vincent Hancock is no stranger to the top of the podium on the world’s biggest stages, and he found himself there once more on Friday at the ISSF World Championship in Changwon, Korea.
The two-time Olympic champion secured his fourth world title in near-perfect fashion, hitting 125 of 125 targets in qualification in pouring rain and then missing only once in the final to earn a decisive victory. Hancock’s only miss in the final was on the eighth target and his score of 59 was insurmountable for silver medalist Erik Watndal of Norway, who finished with a 55. Italy’s Riccardo Filippelli took the bronze with 46 of 50.
With the win Hancock became the first men’s skeet shooter to win four world titles, breaking his tie of three with the Soviet Union’s Jury Tsuranov and Abdullah Alrashidi of Kuwait.
“The whole plan this year was to be able to get to this match, and to perform well,” Hancock said. “I kind of treated all the world cups before this as a stepping stone to get here, and this is just another stepping stone to get to be able to get to the Olympics.”
After competing at his third Olympic Games in Rio two years ago, Hancock took the 2017 season off. Returning earlier this year, he won gold at three consecutive world cups.
The 29-year-old father of two from Port Charlotte, Florida, was already the first American shotgun shooter to win three world championship titles. He also has a world bronze.
His perfect score matched the world qualification record for the second time in his career and his 59 out of 60 performance in the final also equaled that world record, one he has now matched three times.
The three-time Olympian has an illustrious history with skeet shooting, becoming the first athlete to win back-to-back golds in the event at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London and 2012 despite almost retiring from the sport in 2011.
His performance in Changwon Friday also earned Team USA a men’s skeet Olympic quota spot for Tokyo 2020. Quota spots secure a nation’s place to compete at the Olympic Games in the event but does not secure a specific athlete’s place on the team; that is decided later according to USA Shooting’s selection procedures.
The U.S. also earned one quota spot in men’s three-position rifle and two in women’s skeet at the competition, which ended Friday.
“The whole goal was to make sure that I got a quota first,” Hancock said. “First and foremost. But at the same time, I just told myself that if I can hit every target, I’ll be able to get the quota and win a gold medal. So, I was just focusing on trying to do as best I could, and kinda let God take care of the rest.”
Quota spot and world title in hand, Hancock’s plans for the next two years might shift slightly as he turns his attention to the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, next summer.
“That’s the one that I really want to go to,” Hancock said. “I love the Pan American Games. So if I can make that team, that’s what my focus for next year will be. … The Pan Am team for me is what gives me the best opportunity to kind of emulate what I’m going to see at the Olympic Games.”