BEIJING - In his fourth and possibly final Olympics, U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Maj. Michael Anti just missed making the final and finished ninth in the 50-meter rifle prone event Aug. 15 at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall.

Anti and France's Valerian Sauveplane tied with a six-series qualification score of 594, but the Frenchman prevailed in the tiebreaker and went on to finish sixth.

"You're talking less than a point of being in the final, which makes it even more difficult (to take)," Anti said.

"I was nervous, which is kind of typical, at least for me. At the beginning of the match I was kind of tight. I was probably being more careful than what I normally am. I was a little bit leery of trying to shade."

Shading is a technique used to counter changing wind conditions on the range, which, in hindsight, Anti wished he would have resorted to sooner.

"I wanted to shoot in a condition, but it was just coming and going - the condition wouldn't stay there," Anti said. He shot 99, 98 and 99 in his first three series. "Because I was being a little too careful, that may have cost me a couple of points."

Midway through the match, the wind picked up and started changing quickly.

"It wasn't until about halfway through the match that I loosened up a little bit and started to shade more often," Anti said. "If I had done that in the beginning, I might have fared a little better, but shading is kind of risky. There's no science to it or formula that you can figure out. It's just an 'instinct-type' kind of shooting."

Anti closed with rounds of 99, 100 and 99, then anxiously watched the scoreboard to see if he made the cut for the eight-man final.

"I'm disappointed that I did not make the final," he said. "That hurt. That's just tough to take. I've been training hard. I think I performed pretty decently today. Maybe I was a little too tentative and a little too careful and I probably should've been shading from the very start."

Ukraine's Artur Ayvazian, who scored 599 qualification points, tallied 103.7 in the final to win the gold medal with a 702.7 total. Team USA's Matt Emmons took the silver with 701.7. The bronze went to Australia's Warren Potent, who finished at 700.5.

The Olympic journey has been a long one for Anti, 44, of Winterville, N.C. He began shooting at age 11 because he wanted to go hunting with his father. He got started in a junior program in Northern Virginia, enjoyed the sport, and stuck with it.

At age 17, Anti won a team bronze medal at the 1982 World Championships. Ten years later, he finished 18th in free prone rifle at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He also finished ninth in free rifle three-position at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and struck silver in the rifle three-position event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Along the way, he graduated from Camp Lejeune High School in Jacksonville, N.C., and received a bachelor's degree in marketing from West Virginia University in Morgantown. He enlisted in the Army in 1982 and was commissioned six years later.

"I'll never forget the experience in '04, but this has been a great experience, too. What more can you ask for than another chance to represent the United States and the U.S. Army' You can't ask for anything more than that."

"It's been great," said Anti, a former world record-holder who in 2004 was named the Army's Male Athlete of the Year and MMA Soldier of the Year. "I love doing this. I love representing the United States and representing the U.S. Army. There's not a better feeling than to do that.
Team USA's shooters took the Chinese cultural tour in April when they came to Beijing for a World Cup event that served as a test run for the Summer Olympics.

"We did all the tourist stuff then - the Great Wall, the Silk Market, and all the shopping," Anti said. "This time, I've been trying to stay focused. We have our apartment where we're all staying in the Olympic Village, and between there, the dining facility and the range, that's where I've been. This whole shooting complex is just a beautiful facility. They really did a great job of putting it together."

Likewise, Anti did a great job of assembling a stellar career in competitive shooting that might soon be nearing another stage.

"It's a good life," he said. "There's so much emotion going on right now that it's a tough decision to make, but this will probably be my last Olympics. I've been doing this for a long time. Now it's time to do something else - maybe something still within the sport of shooting: a coaching job or something like that."

In the back of his mind, London could be calling, but Anti is noncommittal about taking a shot at the 2012 Olympics.

"I don't even want to say, because I hate to be one of those who comes out of retirement," he said. "It's tough to do, especially in this sport, where you can do it as long as you have the desire to compete. And I still have the desire to compete. I just don't know.

"To put four years of your life into an hour and 15 minutes, that's hard to do."

His wife, Anne, and sons, Matthew, 14, and William, 11, now are foremost on Anti's mind, along with his father, a shooting instructor for Marines and youngsters in North Carolina.

"We do a lot of family stuff, but maybe it's time to start focusing on them more and what they want to do in life," he said. "The youngest one loves to shoot and I want to be able to give him the time that my dad was able to give me, which you have to start at a young age. I think it's time to give back a little, not only to my own kids but to other shooters."

"I plan on retiring from the Army probably this time next year," said Anti, a 22-year career Soldier. "If there is a coaching job available at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, I will definitely apply for that position. With my military background, I think it would be a good fit. And there are probably a couple other opportunities that will be available when I retire."

Anti is assigned to WCAP and attached to the Army Marksmanship Unit.

"I've been with the AMU off and on my whole career," he explained. "I've done tours in Korea for 14 months and four years in Fort Hood, Texas. I also went to Airborne School, Ranger School and all the other Army officer schools.

"The World Class Athlete Program is just a superb program. It's just an amazing opportunity that the Army provides, and a lot of people don't know that opportunity exists.

"It just exemplifies what the military is all about. It wants Soldiers to be successful, and that's one of the ways it provides an opportunity for a Soldier to be successful in something that he loves to do."

The two programs intertwine to help stoke those dreams. Maj. David Johnson, Anti's coach, leads both the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team and the WCAP marksmen. The USAMU consists primarily of enlisted Soldiers and has positions for only two officers, both of whom fill leadership roles. WCAP, therefore, allows officers like Anti and Johnson to coexist in both programs.

"If you want to be an Olympic shooter in the United States, basically there are two places to be: the U.S. Olympic Training Center (in Colorado Springs, Colo.) or the Army Marksmanship Unit (in Fort Benning, Ga)," Anti said. "It works out perfectly."