FORT BENNING, Ga. –
Six Fort Benning Soldiers earned spots on Team USA’s World Championship Rifle Team after competing in USA Shooting Selection Matches over the past few months. The upcoming International Shooting Sports Federation Rifle and Pistol World Championships is October 12 - 25 in Cairo, Egypt and the World Shooting Para Sport World Championships is November 4 -11 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
The six Soldiers competing, along with their civilian teammates, are all marksmanship instructors/competitive shooters for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s International Rifle Team, which is stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
This will be the first World Championship for Sgt. Ivan Roe, a Bozeman, Montana native, and he admits being pretty excited about the opportunity to compete on a world level.
“My training has been getting better the last few months, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve been working on and putting it into action.”
Roe’s first-time World Championship experience will be a full one at that. This Soldier will compete in seven separate events: Men’s 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore, Men’s 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore Team, 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore Mixed Team, Men’s 50m Prone Rifle, Men’s 300m Three-Position Rifle, Men’s 300m Standard Rifle and Men’s 300m Prone Rifle.
With all these matches to prepare for, there is one that is just a bit more exciting to Roe than others.
“I’m most looking forward to competing in the 50m Prone Rifle event because I’ve never actually got to shoot an international prone match before, and my training for it has been going really well.”
In fact, since the removal of prone events from the Olympics, the USAMU International Rifle Team typically only shoots prone events at the World Championships, which only happen every four years. The other unique factor about the World Championships, is that this is the United States first opportunity to earn quotas for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
To compete in the Olympics, every country must first earn a quota, or spot for one of their athletes, and only two athletes per event, per country are allowed.
In contrast, the World Championships allow three competitors per Olympic-style event, plus additional junior-only categories and other “non-Olympic shooting events,” such as the 300m events. This makes it arguably the largest “Olympic-style” shooting event in the world. It will also be the most important event of the year for Team USA, and another first-time World Championship competitor says he could not be more proud to be a part of the team.
“It is a feeling of pride and accomplishment to make this team. I have worked very hard this past year, and that hard work is now beginning to show,” said Sgt. Brandon Muske, a Brenham, Texas native who will compete in both the Men’s 10m Air Rifle and Men’s 10m Air Rifle Team events.
USAMU teammate, Sgt. Tim Sherry, is using his prior World Championship experience to prepare since he knows the challenges ahead.
“Because of how many events and competitors there are, training time is limited at the competition, and the days will be long. We’ve adjusted our training to help prepare for the long days. The range in Cairo has pretty strong winds that can affect the point of impact, and it switches directions quickly,” said the Evergreen, Colorado native.
Sherry will have a packed schedule, like Roe, and compete in six separate events: Men’s 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore, Men’s Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore Team, Men’s 50m Prone Rifle, Men’s 300m Three-Position Rifle, Men’s 300m Standard Rifle and Men’s 300m Prone Rifle.
Getting another chance to represent the United States at a world-level competition is not something Sherry takes lightly either.
“I’m looking forward to competing against the best in the world at our biggest competition of the year. It is a huge honor to compete at such an important event, and I’m ready to rise to the occasion.”
Though this is the most important competition of the year, and the first key to unlocking spots for the United States to compete in rifle events at the 2024 Olympics, the Soldiers know to trust the process and continue training like they always do.
“Honestly, I am preparing for this competition just as I would prepare for any other competition. Fundamentals of the sport are incredibly important and don’t go away when attending larger international competitions,” said 2020 Olympian, Spc. Alison Weisz, who will compete in Women’s 10m Air Rifle, Women’s 10m Air Rifle Team and 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team.
“So other than preparing for competition specifics, the biggest thing a competitor can do is to remain calm,” explained the Belgrade, Montana native.
“I will be sure to train the format of the individual/mixed team events and Finals to make sure I am comfortable with them, but have to remain flexible as you never know what could change.”
Fellow 2020 Olympian, Sgt. Sagen Maddalena, knows the pressure and flexibility it takes to compete internationally, but also has the busiest schedule of the USAMU Soldiers. This Groveland, California native will compete in eight separate events while in Egypt: Women’s 10m Air Rifle, Women’s 10m Air Rifle Team, 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team, Women’s 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore, Women’s 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore Team, 50m Three-Position Rifle/Smallbore Mixed Team, Women’s 50m Prone Rifle, and Women’s 50m Prone Rifle Team.
Though Maddalena recently secured the National Champion title in both women’s air rifle and smallbore, something that is very rare, she is not coasting into this World Championship leisurely. Maddalena said she is looking for revenge.
“At the last three World Championships, I have steadily been closer to the top. However, I have yet to have the opportunity to prove myself in the Final. I was in Cairo earlier this year and was beat by conditions and emotions. Not this time—I am prepared to come out on top.”
The Soldier with the most World Championship experience is Staff Sgt. Kevin Nguyen, a Purple Heart recipient from Westminster, California who will compete in both 50m Smallbore Rifle R6 SH1 Prone and 10m Air Rifle SH2 Prone, which are part of the November World Shooting Para Sport World Championships in Al Ain, UAE. But even with all that experience, this Soldier says there is always something to improve on.
“Since the start of my shooting career here at the U.S. Army marksmanship Unit, I have made every World Championship Team. For me, it’s another great opportunity to compete and represent both the Army and Team USA, bring home some medals and hopefully, earn the first set of quotas for the Paralympic Team.”
Of course, this experienced marksmen has a favorite event.
“My big focus will be 50m Prone, of the two disciplines that I compete and train in, 50m is my strongest event and favorite event,” said Nguyen.
Regardless of experience, all the athletes know the importance of being U.S. Army Soldiers who are part of Team USA. It’s a rare opportunity to represent my Nation in two ways at one event, said Muske.
“It is a humbling feeling to represent both the U.S. Army and the United States at a world level. The Army has afforded me the opportunity to pursue personal goals that I have had since before becoming a Soldier.”
At her first World Championship, Weisz had not yet joined the Army. So though this will be her second experience personally, this will be the first time she competes as a Soldier with Team USA, and that makes this opportunity all the more sweeter.
“I am looking forward to representing the U.S. Army and Team USA at this level, as it will be my first time doing both at a world championship. It’s an honor to represent two of the highest level organizations, at one of the highest levels of competition, it just means more now.”