By Tim HippsJuly 19, 2007
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Army News Service, July 19, 2007) - A veteran Army marksman showed his protAfAgAfA another thing or few during Tuesday's 50-meter prone shooting event at the Deodoro Military Club, Brazil's National Shooting Center.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Tamas and Spc. Michael McPhail left the building clutching XV Pan American Games Rio 2007 gold and silver medals respectively.
A two-time Olympian, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Tamas, 42, won the gold medal with a Pan Am Games record of 703 points, including 598 during qualification rounds that topped his previous record of 597, set at the 1991 Pan Am Games in Havana, Cuba.
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit teammate Spc. Michael McPhail, 25, of Darlington, Wis., took the silver medal with 699.9 points. Both Soldiers are stationed at Fort Benning, Ga.
Canada's Gale Stewart prevailed in a shoot-off against Brazil's Samuel Lopes to win the bronze medal with 695.8 points.
Spc. McPhail secured a second 2008 Olympic quota in the event for Team USA and drew rave reviews from his mentor.
"Hat's off to McPhail," Sgt. 1st Class Tamas said. "He's the hero right now, honestly. He did the job for the U.S. team."
Winning on this level is old hat to Sgt. 1st Class Tamas, a 20-year United States Army Marksmanship Unity (USAMU) veteran who struck gold in the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and won four medals at the 1991 Pan Am Games.
"That's what it takes to win these high-pressure games," Sgt. 1st Class Tamas said. "I didn't think I was going to shoot that well in the final, but it ended up working out pretty good. That's a good score."
Having matched the world record of 600 at the 1998 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, Sgt. 1st Class Tamas knows a good score when he shoots one. He has thrived in USAMU's high-stakes tempo for two decades and expects Spc. McPhail to follow.
"It-s high pressure because you're expected to win all the time," explained Sgt. 1st Class Tamas, who placed 13th at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and was a U.S. alternate for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. "You just can't accept being third and second. You have to be prepared to win a lot, so there's always a little pressure in the back of your mind.
"They expect you to win, and you've got to come through. Hopefully, Spc. McPhail is going to do the same because my career's coming to a close here shortly."
Spc. McPhail is eager for the challenge.
"He's one of the greatest prone shooters in the world ever," Spc. McPhail said of Sgt. 1st Class Tamas. "It's like I've got three years to make up 30. I need to get to work."
While attending the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, Spc. McPhail's idea of work was becoming a bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His goals have changed immensely. He since has shot in the World Championships and Pan Am Games.
"My goal is to win an Olympic gold medal, period," Spc. McPhail said. "If you want to be an Olympic champion in shooting, there is no better place to accomplish that goal than with the Army Marksmanship Unit - it's amazing.
"Our first mission is Olympic gold. Our second mission is to win international and CISM (Conseil International Du Sport Militaire) championships, and our other mission is to put civilians in boots. Having us on the medal stand and making the United States Army look good is a major part of our job."
So, too, is making Olympic dreams come true.
"It only happens every four years, so hopefully you're on," Sgt. 1st Class Tamas said. "When you get to the World Championships, World Cups and Olympics, a good majority of (the competitors) can win. It's just a matter of being on that day."
On this day, Sgt. 1st Class Tamas and Spc. McPhail were both right on target.
(Tim Hipps writes for Family and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs Office.)