FORT BENNING, Ga., (Jan. 16, 2008) - With only 204 days to the Olympics, the sports world now turns its focus to the Summer Olympic Games, which will be conducted in Beijing, China, in August.Eight Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit returned from the Athens Olympics in 2004 with memories, memorabilia and a medal and there are eight USAMU Soldiers who will be vying for a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Airgun Shooting Team - four male rifle shooters, two female rifle shooters and two male pistol shooters.USA Shooting, the national governing body for Olympic Shooting Sports in the United States, will be conducting the Airgun Olympic Selection Matches March 1 to 3 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to fill five slots on the 2008 U.S. Shooting Team - two Men's Air Rifle, one Women's Air Rifle, one Men's Air Pistol and one Women's Air Pistol.Sgt. 1st Class Jason A. Parker, 33, and Sgt. 1st Class Daryl L. Szarenski, 39, each competed in his second Olympics in 2004."The Olympic competition experience gave me the confidence to shoot good scores anywhere in the world," Parker said. "The highlight was making the Olympic finals and the Opening Ceremony was a wonderful experience - all of the U.S. athletes were excited to walk into the stadium. Becoming an Olympian had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager and the Army gave me everything I needed to attain this goal. I couldn't be where I am today without the Army and the Army Marksmanship Unit; they provided every resource I needed to be where I'm at.
"I tell young people who want to make it to the Olympics 'Once you have a dream of what you want to be, make a plan and stick with it, and remember it takes hard work and a lot of discipline.' I will train harder and smarter to be at my peak performance at the 2008 Olympics," Parker continued.Parker, an infantryman from Omaha, Neb., finished in 5th place in Air Rifle in the 2000 Olympics, barely missing a medal by seven-tenths of a point, and ended up in 8th place overall in Air Rifle in 2004 - less than 3 points away from a medal. The Soldier and his wife, Andrea, live in Fortson, Ga., with their two sons, Tommy and Wyatt.Szarenski, of Saginaw, Mich., took 13th place in Air Pistol in 2004; he competed in something other than Air Pistol in the 2000 Olympics.After his disappointing finish in 2004, Szarenski said, 'It is better to compete and lose than to be afraid of losing and never trying." But now, the infantryman said he is solely focused on winning the elusive Olympic Gold Medal.
Szarenski and his wife Amy, a former USAMU international pistol shooter, live in Seale, Ala., with their two children, Hannah and Luke.Other USAMU Soldiers who will be competing in the Airgun Olympic Trials are: 1st Lt. Lucas F. Leinberger of Linn, Mo., Sgt. Henry L. Gray of Belgrade, Mont., and Spc. David R. Sprecher of Tarpon Springs, Fla., in Men's Air Rifle; Sgt. Kelly A. Dove of Comer, Ga.; and Spc. Nicole N. Cooper of Kearney, N.J.; in Women's Air Rifle; and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Rose of Central Point, Ore., in Men's Air Pistol.The trials will consist of three days of Air Rifle and Air Pistol competitions followed by a finals shot by the top eight shooters. The Olympic Team selection will be based upon the aggregate of the scores from the three courses of fire and the two highest finals.The rest of the U.S. Shooting Team will be selected at the following selection matches: March 8 to 16 in Kerrville, Texas, for Men's and Women's Trap and Skeet and Men's Double Trap; May 12 to 22 at Fort Benning for Men's and Women's Three Position Rifle, Men's Prone Rifle, Men's Free Pistol, Women's Sport Pistol and Men's Rapid Fire Pistol.For more information on the Airgun Olympic Trials, contact Mary Beth Vorwerk of USA Shooting at (719) 866-4896.(Formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to raise the standards of marksmanship throughout the U.S. Army, the Army Marksmanship Unit is assigned to the Accessions Support Brigade of the U.S. Army Accessions Command. The Marksmanship Unit trains its Soldiers to win competitions and enhances combat readiness through train-the-trainer clinics, research and development. For more information on the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, contact the Public Affairs Office at (706) 545-5436, Paula.Randall@usaac.army.mil or www.USAMU.com. USA Shooting is recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Shooting Sport Federation as the national governing body for the Olympic and international shooting sports in the United States. For more information on USA Shooting, contact Public Relations Manager Mary Beth Vorwerk at (719) 866-4896, MaryBeth.Vorwerk@USAShooting.org or http://www.USAShooting.com.)