Johnson Places 14th in Olympic Air Rifle Competition
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 16, 2004 Army Spc. Hattie Johnson opened and closed her Olympic 10-meter air rifle competition with a bang Aug. 14, but she failed to reach the final of the first medal event in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games here.
"My hardest shots were my first shot and my last shot," said Johnson, who finished in a five-way tie for 14th place among 44 competitors. "My hand was shaking and I put the gun up and down a few times, but I thought to myself: 'This isn't going to happen to me because I'm nervous. I'm going to hold it all together and I'm going to shoot a 10.' "
Johnson did just that on her first and final of 40 shots and scored 394 of 400 possible points in the qualification round at Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre.
"After I shot my first shot, it was like a huge weight was lifted right off of me, and I was like, 'OK, let's shoot.'" Johnson said. "Of course I would've loved to make the final, but overall I had a very good performance for me. This is the highest international score that I have shot. For me, I succeeded."
China's Li Du, who tallied 398 points in the qualification round, won the first gold medal with 502 points. Russia's Lioubov Galkina, who shot an Olympic- record 399 in qualifications, won the silver medal with 501.5 points. Czech Republic's Katerina Kurkova took the bronze.
Johnson, 22, a medic with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, said she left all she had on the range.
"When I finished shooting, I was exhausted," she said. "Every body part felt like it was sore and hurt. I had a great performance for myself mentally and physically."
For Johnson, a benefit of competing in the opening event is getting to spend the remainder of her stay in Greece with her No. 1 fan, father Jeff Ponti, who came from her hometown, Athol, Idaho, to watch her compete abroad for the first time.
"You have no idea how proud I am. It's just incredible," Ponti said. "How she finished is irrelevant to me. Just her getting here is absolutely unbelievable."
Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Elizabeth "Libby" Callahan didn't have an easy time in the air pistol competition either.
Callahan finished tied for 30th in women's 10-meter air pistol shooting Aug. 15. She scored 89 of 100 possible points on her first 10 shots, one of only five sub-90-point series shot by 41 competitors in the qualification round. She rebounded with series of 98, 95 and 92, but the damage was done.
Three-time Olympian Callahan, selected by her peers as captain of the United States shooting team here, finished with 374 points in the qualification round and did not advance to the final. She shot well midway through the match but closed with several 8s that added to her rough morning.
"I'm just not pleased at all with my performance," she said.
Callahan, a retired Washington, D.C., metropolitan police officer, will compete Aug. 18 in women's 25-meter sport pistol, the stronger of her two events.
As team captain, Callahan, 52, of Upper Marlboro, Md., had the honor of marching in the front row of Team USA's athletes during the Opening Ceremony at Olympic Stadium Aug. 13.
"It's a very proud moment for the U.S. to march in as a team like we did," she said. "We got a very warm reception from the fans in the stadium. You just get goose bumps going in. There's a lot of electricity in the air. To me, it's something I will never forget." Callahan also competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games and 1996 Atlanta Games.