TUCSON, Ariz. (May 22, 2012) -- Reigning Olympic double trap gold medalist Sgt. Glenn Eller III earned his fourth Olympic berth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Shotgun Team Trials, May 18-19, at the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club.
"I feel great about it," said Eller, 30, a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, or AMU, from Katy, Texas. "Not many people get to go to one Olympics, let alone four.
"I just want to thank the Army and AMU for everything they've done. Without them, there's no way I would be in this position right now. They gave me the opportunity to go back for my fourth Olympics. I look forward to representing the Army and my country."
In skeet competition, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shooter Sgt. Vincent Hancock, 23, also a reigning Olympic champion, earned his second Olympic berth with an 11-point victory to join Eller at the London Games in August.
Eller prevailed by six targets over AMU teammate Sgt. Jeff Holguin, 33, of Yorba Linda, Calif., to secure Team USA's second Olympic berth in double trap. AMU Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond, 26, of Hillsgrove, Pa., had already clinched Team USA's top spot.
"It's never easy to be one away, and I've had my fair shares," Holguin said. "I can think of many, many fourth places that I've finished overseas, just one spot off the podium. So it's no different than that. I'm just happy to see two really good shooters go for the United States because they are going to represent us well. If it's not going to be me, it's got to be those two, absolutely."
Eller hit 49 of 50 targets in the final round and finished with an overall score of 609 after 650 targets attempted in Tucson and at the Fall Selection Matches in Kerrville, Texas, site of the first leg of the U.S. Olympic Shotgun Team Trials. AMU Pvt. Derek Haldeman of Sunbury, Ohio, also made the final and finished fourth with a score of 584.
"Nothing better than AMU to create a good shooter," said Team USA head shotgun coach Bret Erickson, 52, a retired Army sergeant first class and a four-time AMU Olympic shooter who will make his Olympic coaching debut in London. "Obviously, I mean, look at them. Vinnie just ran off and left them in skeet.
"We've got two of probably the top four or five trap shooters in the world on our Olympic team. We've got a really, really good team. I'm looking at two medals, just in double trap. Wouldn't that be sweet? And they are very capable of doing it."
After striking gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, Eller's shooting took a turn for the worse. He went a year or two without validating his ascent to the top of the double-trap shooting world. On Saturday, he made it known that he's back.
"After the gold medal, I had nowhere to go but down," Eller said. "I fell down, stumbled, hung around down there for awhile, and slowly eased my way back and did it at the last second every time that I could to get myself back on the team. I guess that's what it was all about, though.
"It's getting harder the older I get. For this one, we only had one slot because Sgt. [Joshua] Richmond was already on the team. There were certain points where I would have been really comfortable with the lead over third place, but I was never comfortable with my lead over second place. You can't stumble, or else they're going to catch you. They want to go, too."
Talk around the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club was that Eller was feeling the heat of the competition more than the 100-plus degree temperatures of the desert on Saturday.
"You're always nervous," Eller said. "You never know what's going to happen. You have the fear of the unknown when you're out there competing every time. As soon as I'd step up and put the gun on my shoulder, I would calm down. But just that waiting and not knowing, that's the hard part."
Competing in the Olympics is old hat to Eller, who seems unfazed by the pressure that overwhelms many competitors on the world's grandest stage.
"It just gives me another opportunity to go win another one," Eller said. "I think I'll be a little more relaxed. I'm sure when it comes down to it, I'll be hyped up and nervous as hell. But when it comes down to it, I've been there and I've done it.
"Last time I had a monkey on my back. It was like with this being my third Olympics and I don't come away with one, why are you still doing it? So now at least I go in as one of the favorites."
Eller realizes that he's flirting with rare air. Only one person has won two Olympic medals in double trap. Nobody has struck gold twice. The opportunity to make history awaits Eller in Beijing.
"That's the plan," he said.
Eller has done his homework.
"Russell Mark had six targets to go and a two-target lead and lost it," he said. "He would've been back-to-back gold, but ended up gold, silver. This will be Kim's [Rhodes, a Team USA women's shooter] fifth. And I know a lot of people overseas who have been to four, five or six, but not many."
Former AMU shooters Todd Graves and Erickson both competed in four Olympics. Graves struck bronze in Sydney. Erickson turned to coaching without a medal.
There wasn't much celebration in Tucson, however, by Eller, who calmly turned and shook Holguin's hand after securing the Olympic berth.
"Yeah, I was just glad it's over," said Eller, who came to Arizona with a four-target lead attained at the Fall Selection Matches in Kerrville, Texas, site of the first leg of the U.S. Olympic Shotgun Team Trials. "Been sleeping on it for nine months with a lead and glad to walk out today. I'll be able to sleep tonight. I've got a weight lifted off my shoulders."
Richmond, who already had secured Team USA's No. 1 spot in double trap, was in Tucson to support his teammates. He might be the most focused AMU shooter in London.
"Yeah, because he's never been there," Erickson said. "He's still got to do what [Eller and Hancock] have already done, so he really wants it. The hump that Josh has to get over is it's his first Olympics. But he's already said, 'I'm not taking my family. I'm going over there to win this thing. I'm going focused and I'm going to win it.'
"So he's got the right attitude. It's not a time to take family and vacation. He's not going to have time anyway. He's going to be locked up in a village and they are going to be downtown, 80 miles away, and a $200 cab ride to get to them.
"I think he's approaching it in the right direction: go win the thing. Once he does that, then he can make a second Olympic team and take his family and enjoy it a little bit."
As for Eller, he's earned the right to take all his relatives along for the ride to London. He's experienced enough to not know they are there.