By Scott McDonald | March 13, 2019, 3:10 p.m. (ET)

Glenn Eller competes in the Trap Men's Final at the 52nd ISSF World Championshipon Sept. 3, 2018 in Changwon, Republic of Korea.

 

Growing up in Texas, Glenn Eller first started knocking down sporting clays with a shotgun when he was 8 years old. By the time he turned 15, Eller had set his sights on one day making the U.S. Olympic Team.

Up until those Olympic aspirations, Eller shot both trap and double trap. But with the Olympic Games Sydney 2000 around the corner, Eller went strictly with double trap.

“I knew I wanted to focus on just one and start winning,” Eller said.

That approach worked, as Eller qualified for the Sydney Games at age 18 and placed 12th. And the approach continued working for the next 16 years, as Eller competed in four more Games, winning the 2008 Olympic gold medal along the way, and became the first American male in the shotgun discipline to compete in five different Olympics.

But after the 2016 Games in Rio, Eller was forced to change course.

With double trap being eliminated from the Olympic program for 2020, Eller is now gunning for a sixth Olympics, but this time back in trap.

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The casual Olympic observer might not know any major differences in the events other than the shooter trying to knock down one target instead of two. But the changes go beyond just the number of targets flying through the air.

“In doubles the targets would go a little slower because there were two of them,” said Eller, now 37. “A good score in doubles would be anything over 140. Now, the targets are faster, there are bigger angles and bigger speed differences, and a good score now is 120 and up.”

Then there’s the length of matches. Whereas double trap events typically started and ended the same day, trap is a four-day event for men’s shooters, Eller said. The men get practice rounds for two days, and then start competition on the third day and finish on the fourth day.

Plus, with the elimination of double trap in this Olympic quad, there’s also now a crowded field joining the trap shooters. 

American men haven’t qualified for trap in the Olympics since 2008, but Eller has pedigree of getting to the biggest stage in his sport.

After his Olympic debut in 2000, Eller made the 2004 team that competed in the Athens Games, where he finished 17th. Wanting an extra edge, Eller joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship program in late 2006, where he trains daily on the shooting range.

The training paid quick dividends as Eller won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. He placed 22nd at the 2012 London Games and 14th in Rio.

Along the way, Eller, who still trains in Georgia, has also risen the Army ranks to become Sgt. 1st Class.

Eller will compete this weekend and early next week in Acapulco, Mexico, where he’s aiming to secure a 2020 Olympic quota for Team USA. A quota guarantees a country a spot in a specific Olympic events, and countries can earn up to two per shooting event. Once quotas are won — two quotas are awarded at each of the four 2019 world cups, and two at this summer’s Pan American Games — Eller will try to put his name on one of them and win a spot for a sixth Olympic team, which would extend his American streak.

Making the move to trap wasn’t so smooth at first, as Eller finished 45th at his first trap world cup event in 2018. But he quickly recouped and by the end of the season finished sixth at the world championships and third at the Championship of the Americas. He narrowly missed out on a quota both times, with four awarded at worlds and two at Championship of the Americas.

“I’ve been staying really consistent lately and I’ve been in the top six lately,” Eller said.  

Even though he said he gets frustrated on some days making the switch from the slower double trap to the faster singles, he said his eyes have begun training on targets more rapidly and that he’s getting used to the bigger angles.

“Everyday I’m working, and it’s almost all visual,” Eller said. “I’m seeing my targets the best I can. I’m moving the gun more efficiently and adjusting to the speed, angle and distance. Things happen really fast.”

Eller doesn’t plan to hang up Olympic aspirations after just 2020. He said another four-year cycle through the 2024 Games would take him to 18 years of Army service for potential retirement, but he said a shot at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles isn’t out of the realm, either.

“There’s still a lot of competition out there, not just this summer and getting ready for 2020, but there’s 2024 and then we’ll see after that,” Eller said. “I might give LA a go, too. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Scott McDonald is a writer from Houston who has covered sports for various outlets since 1998. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.