One of the founding Olympic sports, shooting has appeared in every Games since 1896 except two (1904, 1928).
With six medals—including two golds—at the 2008 Beijing Games, the United States elevated itself to the second-place spot, on the heels of host nation China (8 medals; 5 golds). Indeed, the U.S. has dominated the all-time medal table, with 50 golds to China's 19 (103-to-42 overall) and Team USA hopes to continue the nation's shooting success in London.
With 20 athletes qualified for the London Games, the United States is hoping to make a solid showing at the medal podium. Their best hopes are:
Matt Emmons (Pictured)
Veteran American shooter Matt Emmons hopes to reverse a streak of grand Olympic misfortune that saw him forfeit a potential gold in both 2004 and 2008. Cross-firing in the 50-meter rifle 3 position event in 2004, Emmons again misfired in 2008, though he had greater success in securing the 50-meter rifle prone gold in 2004 and silver in 2008. Since then, Emmons has competed both domestically and internationally and stands to medal once again in London.
A medal winner in four straight Olympic Games, Kim Rhode is Team USA's double trap and skeet woman to watch. She secured gold in Atlanta (1996), bronze in Sydney (2000) and another gold in Athens (2004), all in the double trap. With no double trap held in Beijing (2008), Rhode turned to skeet shooting, earning a silver in her first Olympics solely dedicated to that event. The co-host of the Outdoor Channel's Step Outside will make her way to London with high hopes and a huge feat on the line. To increase her odds, Rhode will also shoot in women's trap.
Joining Emmons in the 50-meter rifle three positions event is Jason Parker, who is looking to rebound from a 2008 Olympics that saw him finish 22nd, while a 2000 fifth-place finish in the 10-meter air rifle turned into a 23rd-place performance in Beijing. American Keith Sanderson won the rapid-fire pistol qualification round in 2008, though he finished fifth in the competition's final. In 2009, he returned to Beijing and defeated Vijay Kumar to secure an American gold. Women's trapshooter Corey Cogdell will look to improve on her bronze medal performance from the 2008 Games while Vincent Hancock will hope to duplicate his 2008 gold medal success in the men's skeet.
The greatest power couple in shooting includes American Matt and Czech Katerina Emmons. In 2008, Katerina set new records in the women's 10-meter air rifle en route to her first Olympic gold. With Katerina's recent World Cup victory in the women's 10 in Milan, both Emmonses will be the champions to beat in their respective events.
Meanwhile, Kimberly Rhode will once again square off against Italian Chiara Cainero, who edged out Rhode for the Olympic gold in Beijing's skeet competition. Since Beijing, Cainero has won back-to-back golds at the San Marino (2009) and Dorset (2010) World Cups.
Australian Warren Potent, who finished third to Matt Emmons' second in the 2008 50-meter rifle prone, will try to improve on his Beijing success and give Emmons another run for the podium.
When: Both the men's and women's competition kick off with a 10-meter medal event on Jul. 28—for the men, it will be the air pistol, while the women will have the rifle. From there on out, shooting will run one or two events daily until the final medals are awarded for men's 50-meter rifle three positions and men's trap on Aug. 6.
Venue Information: Host Great Britain has appropriately selected the stunning Royal Artillery Barracks as the venue for the shooting competition. Constructed in the 18th century, the Barracks are located in Woolwich, just off the River Thames. Travel by river is recommended for spectators, while the Woolwich Arsenal Pier will serve as the preferred drop-off point for London guests.
Because Kim Rhode only needs a bronze to make American history by medaling in five straight Games, expect this accomplishment to become a reality. The only question is which event—trap or skeet—she will medal in. According to the London schedule, women's skeet shoots on Jul. 29 while trap starts and ends on Aug. 4.
After promising few years following his Beijing gold—including the 2009 World Championship and 2011 Pan American Games golds—men's skeet shooter and U.S. Army Sergeant Vincent Hancock will repeat as a top performer in London, feeling right at home in shooting at an army barracks.
Finally, look for Matt Emmons to capture a men's 50-meter three position medal, barring a misfire, of course. As for the prone, Emmons will once again reach the Olympic podium, though his eye will be squarely on the gold, a very attainable goal.
Expect a solid performance from Team USA at the London Games.