Taylor Farmer poses for a photo with her equipment.
Taylor Farmer was still new to the sport of shooting when she wrote down a lofty goal for herself.
It was 2014, and she had just started in her local 4-H shooting program when she had to list three goals.
“One of my goals was to go to the Olympics in 2020,” said Farmer, who has cerebral palsy and shoots from a wheelchair.
Now 20 years old, Farmer may just realize that dream with a spot at the Paralympic Games. She’s been on an upward trajectory with the U.S. Para shooting team, having won her first two world cup medals of her career last fall and being named the 2018 USA Shooting Paralympic Athlete of the Year.
She and the team are now headed to the World Para Shooting Sport World Cup in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, where she’ll try to help the U.S. earn a quota spot for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The competition will be held Feb. 16-24.
It’s been a relatively short road from newcomer to international success for the Castalia, Ohio, native.
Farmer had never fired a gun before she joined her father at the range and shot her first pistol in 2012. Three years later she picked up air rifle and was soon competing. She also met coach Greg Drown, a former standout Ohio State rifle team member and state champion who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis later in life and began competing from a wheelchair.
By 2017, Farmer had caught the eye of USA Shooting officials and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where she’s had the opportunity to devote the bulk of her time to her shooting.
“I don’t really know how to explain it, but you get motivation just waking up and realizing where you’re at,” she said of living at the OTC. “You realize you’re here to do something and it’s not just for yourself but for the country as well.”
Farmer competes in four events: 10-meter air rifle standing, 10-meter air rifle prone, 50-meter .22 rifle prone and 50-meter three-position.
Her favorites, she said, are probably three-position and air rifle prone because they’re the most challenging.
It turns out the harder it is and the more pressure she’s under, the happier Farmer is.
It’s something her coaches have noticed.
“Taylor brings a very unique mindset to this sport,” national coach Armando Ayala said. “She is driven like other athletes but doesn’t respond to match pressure like most athletes. Taylor allows herself to focus on her performance and not respond negatively to challenges. She is extremely strong in finals and really enjoys herself.”
That was certainly the case in France last September when she picked up her first two world cup medals at the World Shooting Para Sport event in Chateauroux, France, winning bronze first in the 10-meter air rifle standing and later in 50-meter three-position rifle. The latter was her world cup debut in the event and just her second time competing in it. She was in second place after kneeling, fell to fifth after prone then ended up shooting lights out in the final stage and set a junior world record with a finals score of 427.6 to earn the bronze.
Both times she was just one spot away from earning a Paralympic quota spot for her country.
“I feel like in the finals is where I kind of have it,” she said. “I don’t get nervous. Some people think I’m really mad because of the way I look, but I haven’t got emotion for anything.”
At least not in competition.
Farmer admitted to certainly feeling some emotions when she finished training one day in early January, looked at her phone and saw a bunch of Facebook notifications waiting for her.
The news had broken that she’d been named 2018 USA Shooting Paralympic Athlete of the Year and from across her feed people were tagging her and sending along their congratulations.
“I was very shocked,” she said. “It caught me off guard. I kind of forgot about the whole Para Athlete of the Year thing; it just never entered my mind at any point in time. I was in tears, actually. I would have never dreamt that I would have been named Para Athlete of the Year, so it was a pretty good feeling.”
Farmer will have her next shot at collecting more medals in Al Ain, and at helping the U.S. earn a quota spot. Once she earns one quota spot, she cannot earn another, but she can certainly win more than one medal and eventually secure the right to fill that quota spot herself.
“I’d like to bring medals back in all four events, but that’s maybe a little much,” Farmer said. “I think maybe two would be good, and to get a quota for the Paralympic Games would be phenomenal.”