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News | Jan. 23, 2024

Meet Sagen Maddalena — U.S. Army Soldier & 2024 Olympian

By Lt. Col. Michelle Lunato U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit

A 4-H club taught her marksmanship basics, her grandfather taught her patience, and the U.S. Army taught her discipline. However, the determination to earn a spot on Team USA, again, is something she cultivated all on her own. 

Sagen Maddalena began her love with shooting sports as a child in Groveland, California. She quickly learned the ropes at her local 4-H shooting club, while her grandfather helped her develop the required patience and passion to succeed. 

With a clear talent in marksmanship, Maddalena efficiently navigated from high-power rifle shooting with the California Grizzly’s Service Rifle Team to National Collegiate Athletic Association air rifle and smallbore shooting with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

On the UAF Rifle Team, Maddalena accumulated eight All-American titles, all while earning a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. As her 2018 college graduation approached, the accomplished marksman had to decide if her shooting career would cease as well.

Maddalena said she was not done with the sport though, and that the U.S. Army offered her the opportunity to be all she could be. “My reasons for joining the Army were to challenge myself, experience new opportunities, excel as a competitive shooter, and to join a team that would push and support me on my path to the Olympics.”

After Army Basic Combat Training in March 2019, Maddalena experienced a number of new opportunities as she trained to become a cannon crew member who works howitzer cannons that support infantry and tank units during combat. Being 5’4” did not stop Maddalena from performing all the requirements to earn the field artillery job title, including the task of lifting ammunition shells weighing over 100 pounds.

With a distinguished collegiate rifle career and her military occupational specialty school complete, Maddalena’s new home became the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Moore, Georgia. As a marksmanship instructor/competitive shooter for USAMU’s International Rifle Team, Maddalena, now a Soldier, settled into her new role and tasks. 

The USAMU was not a completely new concept to Maddalena though. In fact, as a junior marksman, she had seen USAMU Soldiers at competitions over the years. 

“Watching the professionalism and amazing marksman from the Army Marksmanship Unit compete at Camp Perry, Ohio National Matches as a teenager is what motivated me to join the U.S. Army,” explained Maddalena, who holds both the Distinguished Rifleman and International Shooter Badges.
Maddalena wasted no time at the Home of Champions and diligently trained in both 10m air rifle and 50m smallbore, or three position rifle. And by 2020, the Fort Moore Soldier earned a spot on Team USA in the 50m smallbore event and was selected as an alternated in the 10m air rifle event. 

At the COVID-delayed 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Maddalena placed an impressive 5th in smallbore. She may have missed the Gold Medal at her first Olympics, but the experience made her even more focused on improvement.

In past two years, Maddalena earned nine Gold Medals, two Silver Medals and five Bronze Medals at various international competitions; claimed both the Air Rifle and Smallbore National Champion titles at 2022 USA Shooting’s National Championships (something no one else has ever done in the same year) and won the United States a 2024 Olympic Quota in Women’s 50m Smallbore at the World Championships. 

Winning a country quota did not guarantee Olympic berth for Maddalena herself though, so the USAMU Soldier, who is now a sergeant, has had to compete alongside every other U.S. marksman vying for a spot on Team USA.

With more than 170 top marksmen all seeking to fill the two spots for Women’s 10m Air Rifle at the 2024 Olympic Games, the competition was intense. And to make it even tougher, Olympic Trials are broken down into three parts, for both air rifle and smallbore. 

Part of the pressure is now off Maddalena since she earned a spot on Team USA after completing USA Shooting’s Air Gun Olympic Trials Part 3 at the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Judith Legerski Competition Center in Anniston, Alabama, Jan. 5-7, 2024.

Earning an Olympic berth for the second time is obviously exciting but making it in a different discipline is a big deal, said Maddalena. “I feel like I’ve probably put more mental pressure on myself with this gun, this discipline, since I was in college to try and make this team. So it’s a pretty big achievement.”

The ticket to the Paris 2024 Games did not come easy. The competition was tight and came down to the last shots in our three-part trials, explained the Army Soldier. “I really had to dive deep, and the competition was so tough. My goodness, we were all neck and neck for each and every trial period up until this point. Even in this last final, you had to shoot well — you had to make it up there. So, I had to dig deep, and at the same time, I had to let go a little bit and just — I put in the training, I put in the work — and we will see where it takes me.”

Her training and determination paid off with a ticket to Paris, but that doesn’t mean this Soldier can relax now. In fact, she still has to compete in Part Three of USA Shooting’s Smallbore Olympic Trials in March, which will be held at Fort Moore March 17-19, 2024.

Even though Smallbore Olympic Trials are coming up soon, Maddalena said she will still train on air rifle because the two disciplines complement each other. “It’s all about balance. So, I will train less air gun, but it will still be in the mix, because it actually helps out smallbore being able to train both guns.”

Challenges don’t scare Maddalena. She has welcomed them throughout her life. And now that she is a Soldier, I just have more tools to choose from, said Maddalena. “The mental ability, the stamina and strength, just in your head, let alone your body…the ability to train with a routine and a plan…a lot of that comes through being a Soldier and what you learn through the job. It transfers over to the sport.”

Regardless of what happens at Smallbore Olympic Trials, Maddalena knows her mission for 10m air rifle when she gets to Paris.

“Oh, I am going in to win. There is no doubt about it. The first time I did too. I went in there to be the best, give the best that I could and I’m gonna do the same this time. I’ve got a little more experience. I’ve been there. So, I’m gonna give it my best.”



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