Finality and Encore. That’s the theme radiating from Women’s Three-Position Rifle competition Thursday for the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team, with two-time Olympic finalist Sarah Scherer and Rio’s golden girl Ginny Thrasher back on the gun when competition kicks-off this morning beginning with first shots at 8 a.m. ET.
Four years ago in London it was American Jamie Corkish stepping to the top of the podium in this event. Can the magic repeat itself?
It would have been easy to quit for Scherer. To walk away and never look back, to ensure the health you need for life’s next adventure was strong enough to carry you through it. The 25-year-old Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts) has never looked for the easy way out. So, on Thursday in Rio at the Deodoro Shooting Center, she’ll walk off the line for the final time, completely on her own terms.
A two-time Olympic Finalist retiring in her prime from a sport in which age typically isn’t a factor leaves you wondering though. Deeply passionate about the sport, she’s forced to retire after today’s final shot because her sport doesn’t love her back, literally.
Just the fact that she’s competing is an extraordinary feat for Scherer, having undergone two major back surgeries since 2014 as a result of three herniated discs. The 2012 Olympian, who finished seventh in Air Rifle in London and eighth in that same event Saturday, sat out the better part of two years trying to get back against her doctors wishes to compete. She’ll compete for the final time in Rio, unable to continue in a sport she loves due to a back that won’t support it.
She wasn’t healthy in London either and it didn’t matter, similar to what was a great performance Saturday under the circumstances. Two weeks before departing for her first Olympic Games, she fell and fractured her left elbow. Her ability to compete in doubt, Scherer willed herself to the line thanks to the help of intensive therapy and care.
Scherer is a two-time individual NCAA Smallbore Rifle Champion in 2010 and 2012 while also helping lead an all-female rifle team at Texas Christian University to two team titles during her collegiate career.
Given what she’s already overcome, it would be just like her to finish her Olympic shooting career with the ultimate exclamation point.
Frankly, Ginny Thrasher could finish last and she’d be an unbelievable success. A success to herself, the university she competes for now, the sport she’s raised the profile of and the legions of fans she’s gained since. Yeah right. She’s out there to win it and as she showed usSaturday, she’s got as good shot at it as anyone.
As the first Olympic medalist and Team USA’s lone golden child for more than 33 hours, her win left an indelible mark. Adorned with admiration, media obligations and appearances for the next 48 hours, that all fell silent come Monday morning when it was time to get back to work.
Get this, in both World Cups she competed in this season in lead-up to Rio, her performances were better in this event than in the one she just won the gold medal in, with a fourth-place finish in Munich and a 10th-place result on this very range back in April.
In case you’re wondering, the last U.S. Shooting Team member to earn two Olympic medals in one Games, none other than shooting icon Lones Wigger.
In Three-Position Rifle, athletes shoot over a distance of 50 meters (little more than half a football field) in kneeling, prone and standing positions, using a .22-caliber rifle with a maximum weight of 6.5 kilograms (14.33 pounds). The center of the target is positioned at two and a half feet above the floor and its total diameter measures six inches across. This is just a little smaller than the diameter of a professional soccer ball. The diameter of the tenth ring measures less than a half an inch. That means these shooters are aiming at a ten ring smaller than a dime from 165 feet away. The use of specialized clothing is allowed to improve the stability of the shooting positions, but must meet strict flexibility standards to prevent cheating of any sort.
The world record is held by Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia shooting an incredible 594/600 points earlier this year. Pejcic is also currently ranked No.1 in the world and a 2014 World Championships runner-up. Serbia’s Ivana Maksimovic is a good bet to be in the medal hunt again just as she was in grabbing silver in London. Adela Bruns is likely to be in the mix as the returning Olympic bronze medalist. Corkish’s golden run in London was the third American medal won in the event with Launi Meili finding gold in 1992 and Wanda Jewell earning bronze in 1984.
Format: In qualification, competitors fire 20 kneeling shots, 20 prone shots and 20 standing shots within a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes. The qualifications are scored in integer points, with the maximum score per shot being 10 points, and the maximum qualification score being 600 points. The top eight athletes from the qualification phase advance to the final match, where they can shoot up to 45 final shots. The maximum score for each shot is 10.9 points, because of an additional set of 10 rings within the 10-point circle that increases the score of 0.1 points as it approaches the center of the target. This sets the highest possible score at 490.5 points. The eight finalists start the match with 0 points: the qualification score is not carried forward into the final round. The final begins with three series of five shots in the kneeling position to be fired within 200 seconds, followed by a seven-minute changeover. Three more series of five shots in the prone position are then fired within 150 seconds, followed by a second interval of nine minutes. Two series of five shots open the standing position phase of the match, at the end of which the two lowest aggregate score is eliminated from the final and place seventh and eighth. The five final single shots are fired on command and within 50 seconds, while any following elimination is determined by every shot until the gold and silver medalists are decided by the 45th and conclusive shot. If there is a tie for the lowest ranking athlete to be eliminated, the tied athletes will fire additional tie-breaking single shots until the tie is broken.
Qualification – 8:00 – 9:45 a.m. ET
Finals – 11:00 a.m. | FINALS LIVESTREAM starting at 11:00 a.m. ET