By Tim HippsFebruary 18, 2009
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Spc. Walton Glenn Eller III set two Olympic records en route to winning a gold medal in double trap at the August event in Beijing. USAMU teammate Spc. Jeffrey Holguin finished fourth in the event.
Eller's score of 145 in the qualification rounds eclipsed the previous Olympic record of 144, set in the 2004 Athens Games.
In double trap, competitors fire their 12-gauge shotguns from five adjacent shooting stations. At each station, two targets are thrown simultaneously from an underground bunker at speeds up to 50 miles per hour at set angles and height. The targets are thrown with a variable delay of up to one second and competitors get one shot per target.
"I realized with my last pair to go, 'Oh, the Olympic record is only 144. If I hit my last pair, I'm going to get the Olympic record.'"
When Eller did that, he sensed that he was on his way to a spectacular day. He missed his first two targets in the final, but settled down and missed only three shots the rest of the way.
"If you shoot the Olympic record (in qualification rounds) and you've got a little bit of a lead, you expect to come out with gold," Eller said. "But after I went out there (in the final) and missed that first pair, it was a little dicey there for a second, but I brought it all back together."
Eller's final score was 190.
"It's incredible," said Eller, 26, a native of Katy, Texas, who is stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. "I finally made a final in the Olympics. I came in like 12th (in Sydney) and 17th (in Athens), and finally came out and put a good day together. This was the only thing I was worried about for the last two years."
Explaining his key to success, Eller reached into his vest and revealed a handful of baseball cards.
"Hard work," he said as he shuffled cards featuring Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. "That, and I had my teammates with me. The military has been great to me. They've helped me fulfill a dream that, without them, I don't think would've ever happened. I owe everything to them.
"Joining the Army was an incredible gain for me. It gave me a lot of discipline. I was fortunate enough to go into the Army Marksmanship Unit. It's great having those guys to train with every day. They really pushed me along. Just working with them all day, every day, it keeps you in it."
Eller said he could not wait to give his parents a big bear hug.
"I'm going to go find my parents and celebrate," he said. "They've been here all week and to the last two Olympics watching me. To have them here and to finally win a gold medal for them is incredible."
Holguin, 29, of Yorba Linda, Calif., finished fourth with a 182 total.
"I shot really well today, until the final," Holguin said. "This game is all about putting four good rounds together, and honestly, I could only manage two. I had a mediocre round and a bad round. So when you've got two good rounds, they don't offset the mediocre and bad rounds.
On this day, Holguin tipped his cap to Eller.
"It's all about him now," Holguin said. "Glenn Eller and I started shooting against each other a long, long time ago, and we actually enlisted in the Army together in the fall of 2006. This was half of our goal. We wanted gold and silver at the Olympics. We came really close, but I'm happy for him."
During the competition, Holguin did not pull any punches for his Army teammate. "When we're out on the shooting line, we take the gloves off and go at it as hard as anybody else," Holguin said.
Tim Hipps works for FMWRC Public Affairs