Army Marksman Wins Gold in Skeet
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
BEIJING, Aug. 19, 2008 U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun shooter Pfc. Vincent Hancock set two Olympic records and prevailed in a four-target shoot-off against Norway’s Tore Brovold to win the gold medal in men’s skeet on the Beijing Shooting Range.
“Hooah,” Hancock said after receiving several congratulatory hugs from coaches and teammates after the Aug. 16 event. “This is the best feeling in the world. It’s awesome.”
Hancock, 19, of Eatonton, Ga., shot an Olympic record 121 of a possible 125 targets in five qualification rounds and took a one-target lead into the final.
During the final, Hancock missed his 20th shot and finished regulation tied at 145 with Brovold, who shot a perfect round to force the shoot-off.
“It made me more determined,” Hancock said of missing the low target flying out of the sixth station. “Sometimes I need something to boost my determination to get to that next level, and that’s what happened. I would have liked to have shot 25 and won the gold outright, but I couldn’t have asked for a better shoot-off.”
Brovold drew from a hat to determine who would shoot first in the extra session and aligned the stars for Hancock.
“I actually like going last,” said Hancock, who got his wish. “I was hoping that he was going to draw first in the shoot-off. I like shooting second just so I can have the pressure on myself and not have to put the pressure on anybody else. I like to deal with the pressure, and this time it paid off.”
Both of the co-world record-holders hit their first two targets in the extra session, but Brovold missed one of his next pair.
Hancock then stepped up and knocked down two targets to clinch the gold with a final score of 145 (+4). Brovold finished at 145 (+3) to win the silver medal.
“I was hoping that he wouldn’t miss, because Tore and I are really good friends, but when it comes down to it, I’m glad I got the gold medal,” Hancock said. “I wasn’t expecting him to miss that soon. It just panned out for me. I saw the targets really well those two pairs, and I crushed them.”
Hancock said he couldn’t have asked “to shoot against a better shooter.”
“He’s right there among the best in the world. It was just which one of us had the better day today, and it turned out to be me,” Hancock said.
Likewise, Brovold tipped his cap to Hancock.
“It was a very close final,” Brovold said. “I knew that if I was going to have a chance for the gold, I needed to hit 25, maybe 26. Vincent is a great shooter and a great friend, but I don’t see the silver as a failure. I won the silver.”
France’s Anthony Terras 144 (+3) prevailed in a shoot-off against Cyprus’ Antonis Nikolaidis 144 (+2) to win the bronze.
Hancock stayed poised on the mission throughout the two-day event.
“I was trying to keep everything out of my mind, actually,” he said. “I was just trying to keep it focused on the gold medal and seeing myself up on the podium in the first place. Just visualizing perfection – and I almost had it. I missed the low six again, but it doesn’t matter, I still won.
“I could feel the nervousness building up inside of me, so I hoped it wasn’t taking too much longer,” added Hancock, who couldn’t wait to celebrate with his wife, mother and father, who all made the trip to China. “I’m obviously a very nervous person. I can’t sit still very often. I pace around when I’m shooting. That helps me calm down. I try to take the anxiousness and nervousness and turn it around into energy that I can focus on my shooting.”
In skeet, shooters move through a semicircular range featuring eight shooting stations. At each station, targets are thrown at least 65 meters from the high (10 feet) or low (3 feet) house on either side of the range at 55 miles per hour. Competitors hold their 12-gauge shotguns at hip level until the target appears and can fire only one shot per target.
“My game plan was just to break every target,” he said. “I can’t ask for anything more than perfection. I try to be a perfectionist as much as possible, because my motto is, ‘If you’re perfect, nobody can beat you,’ so perfection rules.
“It’s swirling around in my head right now still," he continued. "It won’t sink in for a couple of days probably, but once it does, it’s going to be.”
Hancock was born in Port Charlotte, Fla., and began shooting at age 8. Before his 11th birthday, he was shooting competitively. At age 16, he began rewriting the skeet record books.
Before graduating in 2006 from Gatewood High School in Georgia, Hancock joined the Army and completed basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. Later that year, he was named International Sports Federation Shooter of the Year and Shooter of the Year by USA Shooting, the sport’s governing body in the United States.
Hancock, who was assigned to the USAMU in November of 2007, established the skeet world record with a perfect score of 150 at a World Cup event in Lonato, Italy, on June 14, 2007. He also won the bronze medal at the 2007 world championships, and was named Shotgun Shooter of the Year by USA Shooting.
“This is a dream come true,” Hancock said. “All those things were just stepping stones to this point right now.”
Brovold equaled Hancock’s world record last month at a World Cup event in Nicosia, Cyprus. Hancock saluted the USAMU for preparing him to compete with the world’s best skeet shooters.
“I couldn’t have done it without the Army Marksmanship Unit,” Hancock said. “They help me define my abilities and my training methods by allowing me to train with the best in the United States. I couldn’t ask for anything better. They provide me with everything I need: shells, targets and time. They’ve really let me move along in my game.”
USAMU soldiers conduct train-the-trainer events at Fort Benning, Ga., where they train sergeants and noncommissioned officers to better prepare their units for deployments.
“We’re helping save American lives by teaching the soldiers what to do in situations that they may need experience with,” said Hancock, who has no intention of resting on his Olympic laurels.
“I’ll just go back home and start training again,” he said. “I’ve got a few more matches left this year. I’ll try to come out on top of those and hit it back hard training for next season. It’s not over. I want more medals.
“I love shooting and I just want to keep competing," he said. "Being out here shooting with my friends from all the different countries, you can’t beat that. With the camaraderie of all the people that shoot here, it’s one of the best sports in the world.”
Hancock also saluted deployed servicembers everywhere.
“To all the soldiers around the world doing their job, I hope that I can just keep doing mine, and do it to the best of my ability,” he said.
(Tim Hipps works in the U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs Office.)