USA Shooting’s Director of Operations and National Rifle Team Coach Dave Johnson said it best today upon learning of team scores coming in from the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Acapulco, Mexico. “Awesome is always great to watch.”
It was the reaction upon hearing that two-time Olympic medalist Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) had just shot a perfect world-record qualifying score of 125 on his way to the unprecedented perfect match and ultimately the sixth World Cup gold medal of his career Monday. It just as well could be used to describe the USA Shooting Teams all-around performance at the season-opening World Cup of 2015. In a word, awesome.
Not losing a bit of the momentum it built throughout a historic 2014 campaign, the U.S. Shotgun Team came down to the spring-break mecca and began 2015 with a flourish. In the five shotgun disciplines, Team USA athletes won four of them, earned two additional medals, scored 10 top-six finishes and captured three Olympic quotas.
Hancock’s golden perfection was the fitting conclusion. Having earned the Olympic country quota by winning the Championship of the Americas last October, the Georgia native now has his sights on earning the points necessary to qualify for his third Olympic Games. As the U.S. coaching staff is fond of saying, “They can’t beat you if you don’t miss.” And, he didn’t, not any of the 157 clays he saw. Back in May 2013 at one of the hardest ranges on the planet Hancock shot a 250-straight during a Spring Selection Match in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
But doing so in international competition is rare. So rare that since the new skeet rules were implemented after the 2012 Olympic Games, no one had ever crushed all the clays from start to finish – until now. Assistant National Team Coach Dwayne Weger said he had seen just one total miss from Hancock through all the practice rounds Hancock took while in Acapulco ahead of the match.
“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Hancock said. “I have been shooting well, but I switched to my Beretta DT11 two months ago, so I haven’t shot a lot with it, but it works really well. “I am excited. This is a great way to begin the season, with Olympic points on the line for us. This World Cup was the first stepping stone to getting that next Olympic gold medal.”
In the gold-medal match, he beat Italy’s Valerio Luchini, 16 hits to 14. Hancock equaled Luchini’s qualifying world record mark earlier in the day.
Despite perfection today, he warned his competitors there might even be another level to his game after he gets more time with his new gun. “Typically, when I start a new season I’ve shot a lot of rounds. I would shoot 500 shells per day. But not this time. Last year was a long one, so I took it easy and tried to go off of what I had gained in 2014.”
Another Italian shooter Riccardo Filippelli pocketed today’s bronze medal by beating Mexico’s Luis Oliveros.
To watch the finals of today’s match or any of the five events from Acapulco, click here.
Frank Thompson (Alliance, Nebraska) was sharp but not clean enough, dropping five targets over five rounds for a score of 120, which would leave him two targets off the pace. Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas) finished 23rd after enduring a dreaded round of 21 that would eliminate him from contention despite dropping just three targets combined over the four other rounds. Dustan Taylor (Staley, North Carolina) earned the minimum qualifying score (MQS) he was after in his first international competition with a 116 while the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s Mark Weeks (Clinton Township, Michigan) missed the MQS mark by two targets with a 112.
The ISSF World Cup Series will now move on to Al Ain (UAE), where the second ISSF Shotgun World Cup Stage of the season will be held beginning March 21 with Men’s and Women’s Trap.
Thanks to the ISSF for their editorial assistance and support.
Winchester Ammunition is a Proud Sponsor of the USA Shooting Shotgun Team: Winchester® Ammunition has been the exclusive ammunition sponsor and supplier of the USA Shooting Shotgun Team since 1999. Members of the past two shotgun teams brought home a combined six medals from London and Beijing using Winchester AA International Target loads. Winchester is an industry leader in advancing and supporting conservation, hunter education and our country’s proud shooting sports heritage. For more information about Winchester and its complete line of products, visit winchester.com.