Soldiers with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit International Rifle Team won three Bronze Medals and helped secure a team Gold Medal, which included setting a new world record, at the 2023 International Shooting Sports Federation World Championship in Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 14 - Sept. 1.
The Fort Moore, Georgia Soldiers, who are all marksmanship instructors/competitive shooters with the USAMU, traveled to the ISSF World Championships as part of USA Shooting, the National Governing Body for the sport of shooting.
Along with their civilian teammates, the Soldiers vied for medals, titles and Olympic Quotas in 10m air rifle and 50m smallbore/three position rifle. They also competed in non-Olympic events: 300m Standard Rifle and 300m Prone Rifle.
The ISSF World Championships in Baku brought together the top marksmanship athletes from 33 nations around the world. The USAMU Soldiers competed side by side in both individual and team matches.
Sgt. Alison Weisz went into Baku as the reigning Women’s 10m Air Rifle Champion. That put some additional pressure on the 2020 Olympian from Belgrade, Montana who said this year’s competition was a lot different for her.
“This World Championships experience was significantly different than others for me. It was a unique competition because I was facing very extreme burnout in the weeks prior to the competition. The best way to recover from burnout and its symptoms is to take time off, but as you can imagine that is difficult to do in this job leading into a World Championships.”
Since taking time off from training was not an option, the Soldier said she worked very closely with her sports psychologist to come up with a plan, and even though she did not place where she wanted, she was happy with the lesson learned.
“It was a unique learning experience, as I have never dealt with feelings that severe immediately before a high-level competition. Overall, I am pleased with my performance and results given what I was battling internally.”
Sgt. Sagen Maddalena, also a 2020 Olympian, said she went into the ISSF World Championships not at her peak as well.
“I was not 100 percent going into match day for smallbore.”
The Groveland, California native pulled from her resiliency and sports psychology training and made it into the Women’s 50m Smallbore/Three-Position Rifle Final. At the 2022 World Championships, Maddalena placed fourth, just missing the podium. This year, she was determined to medal and used all her training to perform.
“I had to be on point and focused completely. Training had to come before how I was feeling.”
The tactic worked for the Soldier, and she earned the Bronze Medal behind China’s athletes who won the Silver and Gold Medals.
In the Women’s 50m Smallbore/Three-Position Rifle event, Maddalena teamed up with 2020 Olympian Mary Tucker and U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Sarah Beard, who is assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and an alumna of the USAMU. These three U.S. athletes secured not only the Gold Medal, beating out teams from China and Norway, but they set a new world record with their combined score of 1774-102x.
On the men's side, Sgt. Tim Sherry said the ISSF World Championships in Baku was a mix of emotion.
“This World Championships was unique because of how prepared I felt going into the competition. My preparation gave me a lot of confidence, but also added some pressure because of my high expectations.”
Competing against the best marksmen in the world comes with layers of emotions, agreed Weisz.
“It is always inspiring to be at such a high level and surrounding yourself with the best in the world; knowing that you’re among them can be confidence boosting.”
Sherry, an Evergreen, Colorado native also had an extra boost of confidence as he claimed the Bronze Medal in 300m Standard Rifle in 2022. So he went into the match, giving it his all.
The competition was extremely tight and with only a one-point difference, Sherry took the Bronze Medal in 300m Standard Rifle, behind Norway and Hungary, who earned the Silver and Gold Medals respectively.
The next event, Men’s 300m Prone, was another tight race for Sherry. Again, it all came down to the difference of one point. Sherry secured his second Bronze Medal behind Finland and Slovenia.
Of course, Sherry was aiming for Gold, but he knows he did all he could and was pleased with his performance.
“I’m really happy with how I handled the pressure of the competition and rose to the occasion.”
As the 2024 Olympics in Paris near, every international match is considered invaluable in terms of training. Medals are always wanted, but ultimately, if the match prepares us for the Olympics, that’s the real mission, said Sherry.
“Competing at World Championships helped prepare me for our upcoming Olympic Trials by providing a validation of our training under a high stress environment. We were able to test our preparation against the best in the world that week and came away with several medals!”
The next event for the USAMU International Rifle Team will be Part 1 of Olympic Trials, which will be held here at Fort Moore, Georgia September 28 - October 3, and Sherry said he’s looking forward to it.
“I am excited to continue building on my performances at World Championships as we gear up for Olympic Trials.”
Then shortly after that, the team has to prepare for the next big international competition, explained Weisz.
“After that the team will head to Santiago, Chile [October 20 - November 5] to compete in the 2023 Pan American Games with the goal of fulfilling the rest of our quota slots for the 2024 Paris Olympics.”