By Brandon Penny | March 08, 2020, 5:26 p.m. (ET)

 

 

TUCSON, Ariz. – Vincent Hancock has already won more Olympic titles than any other men’s skeet shooter, and Sunday afternoon he guaranteed himself a shot – no pun intended – at extending his legacy.

Hancock won the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun, punching his ticket to a fourth consecutive Olympic Games with a total score of 547. U.S. Army Spc. Phillip Jungman, 25, finished second at the two-stage trials, with a 537, that began in September in Kerrville, Texas, and will make his Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.

Two-time Olympian Frank Thompson, who earned Team USA one of its two Olympic quotas in the event, finished fifth, while Christian Elliott, the 2019 Pan American Games champion and a 2019 world cup silver medalist, was 10th.

“It’s a big relief,” Hancock said of making the team. “I’ve put a lot of effort into being here and being at the top of my game at the right time.”

Hancock led after the fall competition – with Jungman second there as well – and never wavered through all four days of competition at the Tucson Trap and Skeet Club, shooting six perfect scores of 25 through 10 rounds, plus 57 out of 60 in the final.

Winning Olympic trials wasn’t as easy as the 30-year-old father of two’s scores make it seem.

Hancock has been battling illness the past few days, conjecturing that it may be bronchitis, having already suffered from the infection twice in the past two months.

He was the only competitor who sat in a chair between his turn to shoot at each station, doing what he could do conserve energy and hydrate. Hancock pushed through, knowing what was at stake and how badly he wanted it.

“I’ve been working for four years, trying to get back to this opportunity, and now that it’s presented itself again I wasn’t going to let it slip by,” Hancock said. “I had a really bad round on my second day, but thankfully, again, I just reminded myself why I’m here. I was going to do my best and let God take care of the rest.”

The Eatonton, Georgia, native made his Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, where he won gold at 19 years old. Hancock repeated the feat four years later at the London 2012 Games; since men’s skeet became an Olympic event in 1968, no man had ever won the event more than once.

He also has four world titles to his name – also more than anyone else in men’s skeet, with one coming in each of his Olympic cycles (2005, 2009, 2015, 2018) – and his world cup medal tally is 22, including six silvers at the World Cup Final.

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After a surprising 15th-place finish at the Rio 2016 Games, Hancock took a 17-month break from international competition before returning to dominate the 2018 season, where he won three of three world cups, plus the world title. He then won two world cups in 2019 and the World Cup Final silver. Hancock has also equaled the world record of 125 in both of the past two seasons, and is primed for success in July.

His sights are set squarely on a return to the Olympic podium.

“I’ve done my best to try to forget Rio. I was not in the right frame of mind. I know that I wasn’t, and looking back on it I let myself get irritated by a lot of things, get taken away by a lot of things, and it’s something that I’m aware of now,” Hancock explained. “I try to be more conscientious of my thought process, of not letting things bother me.

“This time around I’m going to have my wife and my two daughters with me, and I’m a big family guy. My wife has been my rock since I was 18 years old when we got married. Home, for me, is where the heart is, and my heart is going to be with me in Tokyo, so I know I’m going to put my best foot forward trying to get another medal.”

Hoping to get a medal alongside Hancock is Jungman, who has already been benefitting from the elder statesman’s mentorship.

Upon Jungman’s final shot, Hancock told him, “You’re an Olympian forever,” and Jungman could not say enough good things about Hancock after the competition.

“I couldn’t have made it with a better person. … I’ve grown closer to him in the last three years because I’ve made so many teams and traveled with him more. We exchange phone calls and ideas, and if there was one person that gave me the most sincere encouragement this whole way, it’s been him,” Jungman said of the three-time Olympian. “He told me after a bad round this week, ‘Keep your head up, you worked hard.’ He said, ‘You’ve looked so much better than you have in the past.’ I attribute a lot of this to him as well, because everybody can tell you good job, but it means a lot when it comes from a two-time Olympic gold medalist.”

Jungman began shooting at age 8, in 4-H, and has dreamed of becoming an Olympian since his first match at age 11.

“Once I experienced it and I met all these Olympians, they inspired me,” Jungman remembered. “I never thought that I could achieve that; always thought it was for somebody else, but all of a sudden 13 years later and I’m still doing it.”

The Caldwell, Texas, native was a promising junior athlete in the last Olympic quadrennial, earning bronze in 2014 and silver in 2015 in the junior division of world championships. His senior worlds debut was a fifth-place finish in 2019.

While he wasn’t sick, like Hancock, during trials, Jungman still described the process as being “miserable,” thanks to the stress.

“Lots of hours waking up and then you can’t go to sleep because it’s on your mind. You’re getting four hours of sleep a night, you know you have to compete the next day, your stomach drops about every five minutes,” he said. “It doesn’t go away, but you have to push through it. I’ve been in this scenario many times, but now I finally learned how to deal with it – how to deal with the noise from everybody around, and deal with the nerves, and how to focus whenever you go out there.”

After being an alternate on international teams in the past, Jungman credits his ability to make this one to a few things: experience, Hancock, and his coach, Todd Graves.

“He won the Olympic bronze in the same sport in 2000 in Sydney, and ever since I met him in 2009 he’s just been a good mentor for me,” Jungman said of Graves. “He’s taught me so much about the game and about myself, and I look forward to working with him at the Olympics.”