DOHA, Qatar –
U.S. Army Spc. Samantha Simonton won the Silver Medal in Women’s Skeet at the International Shooting Sports Federation Shotgun World Cup March 4-13.
Simonton, a marksmanship instructor/competitive shooter with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, said that winning her very first World Cup Medal was no easy task.
“I am really proud of myself. I had to overcome a lot of mental adversity on that trip.”
One challenge in particular was the fact that this young U.S. Army Soldier was up against 53 of the top skeet shooters from around the world, including her USA Shooting teammate, Kim Rhode, a six-time Olympic Medalist. After two qualification rounds totaling a 125 targets, both Rhode and Simonton made it into the Final against six other international competitors who were all seeking a medal as well. The Gainesville, Georgia resident shot excellently in the qualification rounds, only missing one out of 125 targets and placed second behind Slovak skeet shooter, Danka Barteková. Rhode made it into the Final in third place with a qualification score of 122. The remaining five athletes in the final were: Diana Bacosi (Italy), Zoya Kravchencko (Kazakhstan), Barbora Sumova (Czech Republic), Iryna Malovichko (Ukraine) and Simona Scocchetti (Italy).
The final eight shooters were then broken into two ranking matches with the top two moving onto the Final Medal Match. Simonton earned her spot into the Final after shooting 26 of the 30 targets, placing her in a second-place tie with Bacosi, who she then edged out in a shoot-off. Rhode won her ranking match by shooting 28 of the 30 targets.
In the Final, Simonton and Rhode went head to head after Scocchetti secured the Bronze Medal. Both U.S. athletes completed the 40-target Final with 38 hits, which moved them into a shoot-off for their medals. Both athletes shot-off two pairs with no misses. Then on the third pair, Simonton was the first to miss, making her the Silver Medalist and Rhode the Gold Medalist. The one-two win by Team USA made the nail-bitting finish sweet though, said Simonton.
“It was great having the United States on top of the podium.”
Dealing with the high-pressure environment of international competition is not necessarily a new thing for Simonton though. She started shooting a shotgun around eight years old and eventually started competing. As a junior marksman, she competed internationally as part of some Junior World Cup and World Championship Teams from 2016-2019, earning medals and setting the Junior Women’s Qualification World Record.
As an adult, Simonton continued to gain experience as a civilian athlete and in 2020 she placed third in Olympic Trials, making her the first alternate for Team USA’s Olympic Shotgun Team.
In 2022, Simonton joined the U.S. Army with a direct appointment to the USAMU due to her unique skills. She reported to Army Combat Basic Training just tens days after winning the Gold Medal at the USA Shooting Winter Selection Match in Tucson, Ariz., which placed her on the National Shotgun Team. As part of that team, and a brand new Soldier, Simonton claimed the Bronze Medal at the ISSF World Championships in Osijek, Croatia in the fall of 2022. This medal win also earned the United States an Olympic Quota in Women’s Skeet for the 2024 Games in Paris, which Simonton is hoping to compete in. And shortly after that big win, Simonton claimed another Bronze Medal at the invitation-only President’s Cup in Cairo, Egypt.
True to her new Soldier status, Simonton says that all these experiences are great ways to develop skills and mental fortitude.
“I always try to use each match and final as a training opportunity. Each experience makes you better.”
So even when she found herself in her first World Cup Final Shoot-Off, Simonton took a deep breath to focus on her mission and thought, “more shoot-offs is just more training for the next match.”
Simonton’s next match is the ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Larnaca, Cyprus March 25 - April 3.