RIO DE JANEIRO -- Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Richmond just missed making the finals with a seventh-place finish, and five-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller finished 14th in men's double trap on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Richmond missed his 12th target in a three-way shoot-off for the last spot in the finals, while Eller struggled with conditions that were dark, cloudy, windy and rainy before finishing strong -- but not quite strong enough -- which left him talking about gunning for a sixth Olympics in 2020.
Both Soldier-athletes are members of the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Richmond's qualifying score after five rounds of shooting 30 clay pigeons was 135, tied with Hu Binyuan from China and Fehaid Aldeehani, who was born in Kuwait and competed as an independent athlete under the Olympic flag.
Binyaun was eliminated after missing his seventh target in the shoot-off. Richmond missed his 12th shot. Aldeehani then blasted two more clay pigeons to advance to the final.
"This range, I've been to now three times, and every time I've come down here I've been in a shoot-off or missed something by one (clay pigeon), so I thought maybe this was my chance for the range to pay me back," Richmond said. "But it just had other ideas in mind."
Aldeehani is one of the few marksmen Richmond knows personally who has medaled in both Olympic trap and double trap shooting. Their relationship illustrates the value of international friendships developed through sports.
"Although he's a little older than me, he's definitely a force to be reckoned with," said Richmond, 30, of Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania.
"He's in the Kuwait Army. He's a good friend and very good guy. I knew it was going to take me a while to get through him if I could. I was confident that I could. Maybe I sped up just a little bit."
Richmond hit 27 of 30 targets in his first two rounds, 23 in the third round, and finished strong with 29 connections in his fourth and fifth stanzas.
"The first two rounds went off as well as planned," Richmond said. "I've had a tough time this year getting started in my events and been finishing strong. In that third round I just got a little overconfident and a little bit of anxiety started creeping up and my timing sped up between shots."
Richmond said he chose accepted his missed targets to focus on what he could still control: his next two rounds. He regrouped with his Team USA shooting coaches, which included retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Todd Graves, a 25-year Army veteran and bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games and a two-time U.S. Olympic shotgun team coach.
"He was able to calm me down pretty quickly today and focus on getting us at least a chance at a medal," Richmond said. "Knowing that he knows the struggles that we go through with Army life and everything that comes with wearing that uniform, it's just a great fit."
After discussing some timing issues, Richmond took a deep breath and shot his way into finals contention. He focused on his training and his confidence returned.
"Positive vibes started coming back. Once I got a hold of that in the fourth round, I just caught fire. I got real hot, and it felt good." Richmond remembered.
It took much longer for Eller, the gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, to feel at ease on the shooting range. He hit 48 of his last 50 targets, but the damage was already done.
"I finished strong; didn't start strong," admitted Eller, 34, of Katy, Texas. "I just couldn't find it, couldn't figure out what was going on. We haven't shot in this weather condition since I've been here. I haven't trained in it the last two months.
He was nonetheless grateful to be living his lifelong dream of pursuing Olympic gold.
"What the Army does is amazing," Eller said. "They take care of me and I'm able to do what I love."
Richmond echoed the sentiment, while professing that he will do everything he can to make the team to compete in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics.
"I surely would not be standing right here today without the U.S. Army," he said. "I consider this a win, for sure, and I will be back, for sure."