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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

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A Special Salute To The Great 8 Shotgunning For Gold In The 2024 Summer Olympics

When it comes to sporting events, few rival the excitement and anticipation that the Summer Olympic Games bring. In that respect, this year’s Olympics, scheduled for July 26 through August 11 in Paris, are no exception.

While track & field, cycling, swimming, and other races draw the lion’s share of media attention, some unsung heroes will be battling for medals in the somewhat less publicized sport of shooting. And Team USA’s shotgunners have been working hard preparing for Paris in hopes of taking home some Olympic gold.

Vincent Hancock, Conner Prince and Dania Vizzi
Three gold-medal favorites from H&B’s July-August Cover from left to right: Vincent Hancock, Conner Prince, and Dania Vizzi. While Dania Vizzi is a Perazzi shooter, Hancock and Prince are Beretta shooters. Specifically, both men will be gunning for gold with Beretta’s DT11 Black featuring a drop-out trigger, carbon fiber rib, split barrel, Steelium Pro Barrels that have lengthened forcing cones and German-made Ergosign stock.

How The Shooting Games Began

The first written evidence of the official Games dates from 776 BC, when the Greeks began measuring time in Olympiads, or the duration between each edition of the Olympic Games. The first Olympic Games of the modern era took place in Athens in 1896, with this year’s host city Paris hosting the second Olympics in 1900. Women competed for the first time in the 1900 Paris Olympics.

Interestingly, shooting was one of the nine sports at the first Olympics in Athens, and the athletes shot live pigeons in the two events. By the 1900 games, pigeons were replaced with clay targets. While women began competing in 1900, they didn’t compete in shooting until the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Men’s and women’s events weren’t completely separated until 1996. The program includes multiple events across three disciplines: rifle, pistol, and shotgun. 

Team USA By The Numbers

Since the beginning of the modern Olympics, U.S. athletes have won the most Olympic medals in shooting (116), followed by China and Russia. Five shooters have won five Olympic gold medals, and four are Americans—Carl Osburn, Willis A. Lee, Alfred Lane, and Morris Fisher. Osburn won the most Olympic medals of all time, with four silver and two bronze to go along with his five gold medals. 

team usa shotgun

American trap shooter Kimberly Rhode is the most decorated American woman shooter when it comes to the Olympic Games, winning the most Olympic medals of any female shooter ever and also being the youngest female Olympic shooting champion. She’s also the first shooter to win a medal in six straight Olympic Games—gold in Atlanta in 1996, bronze in Sydney in 2000, gold in Athens in 2004, silver in Beijing in 2008, gold in London in 2012, and bronze in Rio in 2016.

Over the decades, USA Shooting has won a total of 121 Olympic/Paralympic medals, six of which were earned at the 2020 Tokyo Games. In fact, shooting took home the fourth most medals out of the U.S. sports in Tokyo. Medalists there included Amber English, gold in Women’s Skeet; Vincent Hancock, gold in Men’s Skeet; Will Shaner, gold in Men’s Air Rifle; Kayle Browning, silver in Women’s Trap; Lucas Kozeniesky and Mary Tucker, silver in Mixed Team Air Rifle; and Brian Burrows and Madelynn Bernau, bronze in Mixed Team Trap. Hancock, who is competing again this year, has won three Olympic gold medals and four World Champion titles in Men’s Skeet.

The Paralympic Games follow the Olympics, giving athletes with a range of disabilities the chance to compete for medals and represent their countries. Started in 1948, the Paralympics has grown to the point that 4,520 athletes from 163 countries competed in the 2020 games.

The first U.S. Paralympic medals were awarded to West Brownlow in 1984 when he earned a bronze medal in Air Pistol and a bronze in Men’s Air Rifle Kneeling. McKenna Geer was the first female to win a Paralympic shooting medal for the U.S. in 2016 at the Rio Games where she earned bronze in air rifle.

Let The Games Begin

In this summer’s games in Paris, as of May 29, 16 U.S. Shooting athletes will be representing their country in trap, skeet, skeet mixed teams, air rifle, mixed team air rifle, 50-meter smallbore rifle, air pistol, 25-meter sport pistol, and rapid fire pistol. Five U.S. Paralympians will compete in 10-meter air rifle prone, 25-meter sport pistol, 50-meter prone rifle, and 10-meter air pistol.

The Olympic team is under the auspices of USA Shooting, headquartered at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The U.S. is one of the few countries that does not receive financial aid from their government for the Olympic Games.

Now, let’s take a look at Team USA’s shotgun athletes, starting with the coach.

Jay Waldron, National Shotgun Coach, Team USA

coach jay waldron

Coach Jay Waldron is no stranger to the Olympic Games, having competed in trap at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and coaching the team at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Both experiences have given him insight into what the team members will be experiencing in Paris.

“I think that being there and doing it actually gives you that little bit of advantage when you’re talking to them, where you have that experience of actually being in their shoes at one time,” Waldron said. “It was a long time ago when I competed, but I’m always looking back to those days and trying to mine up something I could give them that they can use to help themselves.”

Of course, keeping the shooters focused is something that will keep Coach Waldron busy in Paris.

“I think it’s more just keeping your eye on the prize, not getting overwhelmed about it before it happens and not stressing out about something that is down the road,” he said. “It’s just looking forward, taking each day as it comes. It’s training hard and relying on their training, what they’re working hard to do. So, trust the process.”

For Waldron, just getting to Paris and getting the games started is one of the things he is looking forward to most. And, of course, he has high hopes his team will come home with some hardware after all the shooting is done.

 “The team is just super excited to go there and compete,” he said. “I think we’ve got some really talented athletes who are going to compete at a high level and I just hope that they can put themselves in a position at the end where we can strike and hopefully bring home some medals.

“I think with this team our chances are super high. But like with any sporting event, there are all the things that have to happen, and they still have to go out there and compete, pull the trigger, and make things happen. I’m one of those people that doesn’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but I would definitely say I would be more than surprised if this group of world-renowned, talented individuals don’t get it done on some type of level.”

Vincent Hancock, Men’s Skeet

vincent hancock
Hancock during a spring 2024 training session. (Photo Courtesy Federal Premium)

At 35, Georgia-native-turned-Texan Vincent Hancock is the only shooter on the team to have won a gold medal in a previous Olympics—in fact, he has won three. Vincent took up shotgun shooting at a young age, competing in trap competitions with his father. That’s where his competitive nature was revealed.

“I’ve always been competitive and loved to win…but I hate losing even more!” Vincent said. “This helped me during my practice and competitions to work harder than everyone else because I wanted to be the best.”

To Vincent, competing in the Olympics is more than just shooting, it’s also representing the country he loves. “I’ve always been honored to represent my country,” he said. “From serving in the military (U.S. Army), to leading Team USA into opening ceremonies carrying our flag, and then competing with USA on my back, there is no greater privilege or honor than being an American.”

While most might think Vincent’s greatest achievement in shooting would be winning three Olympic golds, that’s not the case. “My greatest career achievement is being selected to carry the flag into the Opening Ceremonies for Team USA at the Pan American Games in 2023,” he said. “I’ve walked behind that flag and looked up to it my entire life, and to get the honor of carrying it into the stadium and leading Team USA onto the field was a dream come true.”

Dania Vizzi, Women’s Skeet

Dania Vizzi
Dania Vizzi (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

A first-time Olympian, 29-year-old Dania Vizzi’s road to becoming a top shotgun competitor was much different than most. Dania had her heart and mind set on becoming a professional ballerina—until she picked up a shotgun at 16.

Since then, she has poured the same effort into shooting that she had with dancing. “When I am not traveling, I like to train five to six days a week, shooting about 250 targets a day,” she said. “If my day allows, I like to break my training up into a morning and an evening session so that I can train with both types of lighting situations. I also go to the gym five days a week as well, mixing my workouts up between cardio, strength training, and a lot of Pilates.”

Among the things Dania is looking forward to in Paris, having her mother along on the trip is high on the list. “There are so many exciting things that I can’t wait to experience, a few being opening ceremonies, meeting other Team USA athletes, and, of course, representing the United States at the most prestigious sports competition in the world,” she said. “If I had to choose what I’m looking forward to most, I think it would be the fact that my mom is going to watch me compete on the world stage for the first time.”

In the end, Dania is proud to be representing her country while in Paris. “It is an amazing feeling,” she said. “Being able to represent the greatest country on Earth, there are no words.”

Conner Prince, Men’s Skeet

Conner Prince
Conner Prince (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

After falling in love with shooting clay targets as a freshman in high school, 24-year-old Conner Prince has never looked back. Another Olympic Games first-timer, Prince works hard to refine his craft.

“Leading up to a competition I shoot six to seven times a week, and that consists of two or three rounds depending on what day it is,” Conner said. “Then I will go into either practicing my ‘finals’ or station work, depending on what I feel like I need to work on. At the end of the training session, I will have shot anywhere from 200 to 250 shots.”

Conner said he’s really looking forward to the opening ceremonies, which are expected to be unique. “We’re supposed to be going down the Seine River on boats, which is going to be a really cool experience,” he said. “I’m also excited to see how much they’ve decorated Paris for the games.”

Of course, Conner is looking forward to representing his country in this top-level international competition. “Considering the Olympics only happen once every four years, being one of the two people that get to represent the United States in my discipline is an honor,” he said. “It’s honestly a dream come true to be able to represent the greatest country in the world.”

When not shooting, Conner pursues his passion for cars. “I have a 2017 Mustang GT that I love to work on and go drive around,” he said. “I’ve always been a big gearhead growing up and have always loved Mustangs or anything that runs.”

Austen Smith, Women’s Skeet

austen smith
Austen Smith catching a spent shell during a training session. (Photo courtesy Federal Premium)

For Austen Smith of Keller, Texas, this year’s Olympic Games will be her second, having competed in 2020 in Tokyo where she was the youngest U.S. shooter at 18 years of age. In 2021, she won the gold medal in the Women’s Skeet event at the ISSF World Cup Shotgun in Lonato, Italy, and she won the bronze medal in Mixed Team Skeet at the Pan American Games in 2023.

Austen had only been shooting for six years and didn’t expect to make it to Tokyo in 2020 given the depth and years of experience on the United States Women’s Skeet Team, many of whom she had looked up to throughout her shooting career. Making the team again for this Olympic Games wasn’t as much of a surprise.

Austen’s other competition highlights include a gold medal in the Women’s Skeet Team at the 2022 World Championship, gold in the Women’s Skeet Team, and Silver in the Mixed Skeet Team at the 2022 World Cup in Lima, Peru.

Austen studies Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, and her hobbies include reading, drawing, and listening to music.

Will Hinton, Men’s Trap

will hinton
Will Hinton (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

Georgia native Will Hinton is currently a Staff Sergeant at the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) stationed at Ft. Moore, Georgia. He has been shooting shotguns—and hunting birds—for most of his life and has a very robust practice regimen.

“During the beginning of the season my training volume will be heavy; I would say somewhere around 300 to 500 shotshells a day on a bunker trap field,” Will said. “Once I am used to moving my gun throughout the season I will scale back round count but increase the quality of rounds and practice more deliberately running a competition routine.”

Since Paris will be his first Olympics, he’s looking forward to everything he will get to do and see. “Honestly I’m looking forward to all of it,” he said. “I am excited to see the village, the range, and all the high-caliber athletes (shooters and non-shooters). I am excited and obviously anxious to go out and compete and let my experience and training take over.”

As a member of the U.S. military, Will said this is an opportunity and privilege that he is not taking lightly. “I have made every team world cup, world championship, Pan American Games, but now it’s the Olympic Games,” he said. “I have a great sense of personal pride representing the U.S., but also carrying the entire support of the USA is an overwhelming feeling. I plan to use that and do my job and earn a medal. There is never a prouder feeling than seeing flags raised and seeing the USA on top. Now I could do that on the world’s largest stage.”

Rachel Tozier, Women’s Trap

rachel tozier
Rachel Tozier is pumped to show off her red, white and blue spirit this summer. (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

Another Staff Sergeant in the Army Marksmanship Unit, 32-year-old Rachel Tozier is also shooting in her first Olympic Games. 

“Because I’m in the AMU, I’m lucky and extremely grateful to have nearly unlimited resources for training,” she said. “On a normal week, I’ll shoot three to five rounds (75 to 125 targets) per day, five days a week. After a match, I’ll take a few days off to recoup and then get back on the gun.”

Rachel is very excited about the Paris games—and the opportunity to have her family along for the ride. “I’m most looking forward to the match itself and being among the best shooting sports athletes in the world,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to the opening ceremonies and taking my daughter to Disneyland after the match is over.”

Representing her country on such a big stage is also very fulfilling for Rachel. “It feels amazing to be able to represent the USA and the Army on the most prestigious stage in the world,” she said. “It’s an indescribable feeling, but mostly, I’m just proud to be a part of the U.S. Olympic Team.”

Along with shooting, her family and working out are also among the most important things in Rachel’s life. “When I’m not shooting, I’m either in the gym or spending time with my husband and daughter,” she said. “I’m passionate about weightlifting and being as physically strong as I can because I want to set a healthy example for my daughter. It’s also how I decompress and my little bit of ‘me time’ every day.”

Derrick Mein, Men’s Trap

derrick mein
Derrick Mein is ready to spread his wings in Paris. (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

At 38 years old, Derrick Mein of Paola, Kansas, has 30 years of shotgun shooting under his belt. He started as a youngster, shooting sporting clays at a local range with his father.

For Derrick, the overall experience of the Olympic games is what has him pumped. “I’m most looking forward to the full Olympic experience,” he said. “In Tokyo, everything was severely limited because of Covid restrictions. Most importantly, my family will be there to watch me compete and cheer me on.”

In fact, preparing for the Olympics is kind of a balancing act for Derrick. “I try to keep a healthy balance between getting every bit of practice I can as well as spending time with my family while I’m at home,” he said. “I usually practice a couple times a week if the weather allows. I also try to do some physical exercises between practice days.”

According to Derrick, he will definitely be competing with a gold medal in mind. “The only thing better than representing the USA in the Olympics would be to hear the Star Spangled Banner play while I’m standing on top of the podium,” he said. “Getting that experience at the world championships was easily the greatest moment in my shooting career.”

As for personal achievements in shooting, Derrick cites his versatility. “I feel like my best achievement has been proving that I can compete on the world stage in multiple shotgun events, those being sporting clays and Olympic trap,” he said. “Only one other person has won a world championship competition in both of those games.” 

Ryann Phillips, Women’s Trap

ryann phillips
Ryann Phillips…last of the great Team USA shotgunners, but certainly not least! (Photo courtesy Team USA Shooting)

A college student at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Ryann Phillips began shooting shotguns in third grade through 4-H.

“I wanted to show animals when I first got into 4-H,” Ryann said. “All of my friends showed animals and I was determined to do it. My mother told me no. So, I looked for another sport and ended up involved in 4-H shotgun and archery. I eventually dropped archery and focused on shotgun.”

The rest, as they say, is history, with Ryann making her first Olympic team this year. “Honestly, I don’t think the reality of it has sunk in yet,” she said. “As of right now, it’s just another competition. However, the thought of representing both my country and myself in this way is amazing. It is an opportunity I never thought I would have.”

team usa shooting paris 2024 summer olympics

While the shooting competition is something Ryann can’t wait to begin, another aspect of the Olympics gets her vote for what she is looking forward to most. “I am looking forward to the opening ceremonies,” she said. “This is going to be an experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

For such an accomplished shooter, in her downtime (what little there is) Ryann has a hobby most might not expect. “I love to crochet and paint,” she said. “Arts and crafts are what I do in my free time. I love making things with my hands and sharing them with my friends and family. I also enjoy reading when I have the time.” 

More Olympians Gunning For Gold

While we concentrated on the USA shotgun team in this feature, there will be plenty of other American shooters vying for a medal in Paris. Keep an eye on these patriots, too!

Olympic Rifle

Ivan Roe: Men’s Air Rifle, 50m Smallbore Rifle

Mary Tucker: Women’s Air Rifle, 50m Smallbore Rifle

Sagen Maddalena: Women’s Air Rifle, 50m Smallbore Rifle

Olympic Pistol

Alexis ‘Lexi’ Lagan: Women’s Air Pistol

Katelyn Abeln: Women’s Air Pistol, 25m Sport Pistol

Ada Korkhin: Women’s 25m Sport Pistol

Keith Sanderson: Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol

Henry Leverett: Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol

Paralympics

Jazmin Almlie-Ryan: R5 Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH2

YanXiao Gong: P3 Mixed 25m Sport Pistol SH1

Kevin Nguyen: R6 Mixed 50m Prone Rifle SH1

John Wayne Joss: R6 Mixed 50m Prone Rifle SH1 

Marco De La Rosa: P1 Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1

team usa shooting

Getting Young Guns Started

Athletes looking to get involved in shooting sports should start with a local club, 4-H program, a USA Shooting Certified Training Center, an NRA club, or with the Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP) or Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP). All of those programs can give youngsters a head start that, with hard work and determination, could lead to competing in the Olympics someday. For more information, visit usashooting.org

Golden Girl – Dania Vizzi

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