Eighty-seven weeks ago, Lucas Kozeniesky posted a two-year old image of him shooting with a message of congratulations on making the 2016 Olympic men’s air rifle team to his Instagram account.
“2 years ago today, I earned a spot on the Olympic Team,” he captioned it. “Crazy how time flies, we are already 2 years away from the next one.”
Eighty-seven weeks from now, he’ll be able to post that same message again.
Kozeniesky, 24, and Will Shaner, 18, officially earned their spots on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team on Sunday after the final day of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Air Rifle in Colorado Springs, Colorado. What started for the athletes last December in part one of the trials ended with both athletes earning the coveted two spots on the team that will travel to Tokyo this summer.
They are the first U.S. shooters to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Matt Sanchez and Peter Fiori are the first and second alternates.
Kozeniesky, of Fairfax, Virginia, was just 21 years old and still in college at North Carolina State University when he was somewhat of a surprise winner of his Olympic berth in 2016. He qualified in June, was in Rio two months later and finished 21st overall. He has since earned silver in air rifle at the 2018 Championship of the Americas and then gold in the event at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, which secured the U.S. an Olympic quota.
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Shaner was only 15 years old when the Olympic Games Rio 2016 were held, but already he was spending hours a day practicing at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He held a number of national records already at that age, even competing against athletes closer in age to Kozeniesky at that time than himself, and his sights were set firmly on this year.
Having competed internationally at the junior world cup, junior world championships and world cup, Shaner is currently a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. As one of the nation’s top prospects coming into college, he was named NCAA Rookie of the Year last year and was an All-American First Team member in air rifle, smallbore and combined. He won bronze in men’s prone rifle, a non-Olympic event, at the 2018 junior world championships.
Shaner put himself into contention to make this year’s Olympic team after finishing in third place after the first stage of the trials two months ago. Kozeniesky was in first place following Part I of qualifications.
Kozeniesky was still holding on to his lead following day one of the second stage of competition on Saturday with a total of 1886.8 points including the results from December. Shaner was in second heading into Sunday with 1879.0 points.
On the second and final day, Kozeniesky tied the relay world record with a score of 633.5.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.