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Soldier first, Olympian second: Weisz takes unconventional path to Tokyo

By James Franks, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication | July 28, 2021, 2:41 p.m. (ET)

Alison Weisz takes aim while practicing for the women's 10-meter air rifle competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Ali Weisz ( Mississippi, rifle) qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in February of 2020 and was ready to serve in the Army after the completion of the Games. One pandemic later, her dreams came true in the reverse order. 

Weisz took the period of canceled competitions to enroll in basic training for the Army. 

“It had always been a goal of mine to join the Army after qualifying for the Olympics,” Weisz told army.mil. “The initial plan pre-COVID was that I was going to qualify, go to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, in August come back, take a little bit of time off, and go to basic training. And that was all just because I wanted to look forward towards 2024 and the Olympics in Paris. The best way to do that for my career and my sport was with the Army.”

While in Tokyo, Weisz placed 14th in women’s 10-meter air rifle and fifth and sixth in the mixed 10-meter air rifle alongside Will Shaner (Kentucky, rifle). 

Weisz was not known as one of the best shooter’s on the rifle team at the University of Mississippi during the start of coach Marsha Beasly’s first year with the team. That did change due to one key factor.   

“She was always very, very determined and determined to do well,” Beasly said. “The fact that Ali really improved while she was at Ole Miss, I think it's a testament to that determination.” 

Weisz’s career marks at Ole Miss were a smallbore score of 589, an air rifle score of 597 and an aggregate score of 1,180. 

She was also determined in the classroom, where she won an NCAA scholarship during her time at Ole Miss, Beasly said. 

When COVID-19 began, she was upset to see the shutdown of her sport happen but realized she had a golden opportunity to make her dreams come true. 

“I know at first it was really hard to see it like that, but I was given an opportunity that a lot of people in this sport would have never been given,” Weisz said to montanasports.com.

While serving, she had an opportunity to refine her craft by joining the Army Marksmanship Unit, which she said has “some of the best resources that you could imagine, for our sport specifically.”

Weisz’s time in the Army helped reinforce skills that she applies while shooting competitively.

Although she was in an unorthodox situation, she has a positive outlook on her athletic and military path. 

“She's a really positive person,” Beasly said. “Every time I talk to her since she’s been in the  Army, (she says) ‘everything is great, everything is great.’”

Weisz finds her military experience complements her performance as a shooter. 

“Even though it was in using pushups or rappelling down the wall with fear … I can now take those skills I’ve learned and apply when I’m actually training and shooting so rather than questioning myself (with questions like), ‘Am I going to be able to shoot well today?,’” she said to army.mil

Weisz hopes to use her Olympic and military experience to encourage youth to follow their dreams.

“I hope that my image is out there enough and I hope it is a positive one as well to push little girls, young girls, young boys, whoever in this state, that they can go above and beyond,” she told montanasports.com.

James Franks, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

James Franks is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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