Above: Morgan Craft at a Junior Development Camp in Colorado Springs.
The founder of the Olympic Movement, Pierre de Coubertin, stated that “the Olympic Games were created for the exaltation of the individual athlete.” Certainly, there’s a lot of truth to that. But, out of that creation comes the pride, interest, responsibility and opportunity for an entire sport to nurture that greatness.
The 25 Olympic and Paralympic athletes that will compete in Rio this summer representing USA Shooting, no doubt got there as a result of their own hard work and sacrifice. But, laying the foundation for that success are the organizations within this vast shooting industry that give kids opportunity to compete in the shooting sports.
The ties that bind this team together are rooted in the acronymic alphabet that makes the shooting industry great, organizations like the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), National Rifle Association of America (NRA), Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF), Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), 4-H, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), USA Youth Education in Shooting Sports (USAYESS), and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU). The letters might not mean much outside, but inside they mean everything. For us they mean the ability to carry on an existence that’s helped pave the way to 107 Olympic medals all-time.
A team made by virtue of having one of the greatest industries going in Olympic sport. Quite simply, we’re the sum of our parts.
Pistol shooter Lydia Paterson may not be an Olympian today were it not for her experience at the Daisy BB Gun Championships, something she picked up through 4-H. A 2010 National title helped propel her to Rio even if she had to give up rifle due to scoliosis. Now, she’s one of the best pistol shooters in the world thanks to Daisy and 4-H.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program has major influence on our sport. Matt Emmons, arguably the greatest rifle shooter in history, says a CMP camp in 1997 helped propel him to three Olympic medals. It was at Camp Robinson (Arkansas) that year when classroom instruction from Ron Wigger, Gary Hardy, Pete Durben and Dave Johnson helped instill in him something that meant everything at the time. It was there that Johnson, now the director of operations for USA Shooting, explained the Olympic Path, something that the up-and-coming Emmons knew nothing about then. Nineteen years later, Emmons thanks CMP and that specific nugget of information, for helping lead him to the greatness he’s achieved.
Similarly, Ginny Thrasher is bringing even more recognition to the CMP. Clinching her team spot on April 4 means that Thrasher is the first CMP Summer Camp alum to have ever made it to the Olympic Team.
A familiar face to the CMP, Ginny finished eighth during the 60 Shot National Air Rifle Match at the 2013 National Matches at Camp Perry, along with first place in the Junior match and fourth overall in the Open category during the 2015 Camp Perry Open event. In 2014, she received Junior Distinguished Badge #771 and was awarded a CMP Scholarship for her accomplishments the following year. She attended the CMP’s Summer Air Rifle Camps to further hone her rifling abilities—a 3-Position Camp at the South Competition Center in Anniston, AL, in 2012, and the Colorado Springs Standing Camp in 2013.
Thrasher also heaps praise upon the value the NRA had on her shooting career, saying that the yearly National Championships had a huge impact in forming the confidence and skills she uses today. Before leaving for WVU, she won the 2015 NRA National Smallbore Metric 3-P Championship.
Daniel Lowe owes much to the opportunity the American Legion provided him as a junior shooter. Lowe was their 2011 National Champion. 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jamie Corkish earned that same title 10 years before her golden run in London. Her 2012 teammate Jonathan Hall did as well in 2005.
4-H and the NRA helped get Keystone state natives Morgan Craft and Josh Richmond started in the shotgun sport. Craft shot rifle in 4-H from age 7-11 before taking aim at clay targets starting at age 12. NRA junior shotgun camps peaked her interest in the international game and the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) provided her the opportunity to do more with that interest. Before he was a two-time World Champion and Olympian, Richmond was winning 4-H state titles in shotgun. The NRA donated $50,000 to build the bunker Richmond shot on in his youth.
The tenets that have built the shooting sports into what it is today evoke passion, advocacy, nationalistic pride and tradition. There is no greater representative of those values for the shooting sports than the members of America’s Shooting Team. The USA Shooting Team carries on the proud tradition of medal-winning success and shooting skill unlike any other country in the world, exemplifying the greatest defense possible for protecting, preserving and promoting the shooting sports legacy of this country. A legacy built foremost by all the shooting organizations mentioned above.