Jamie Gray

The first London 2012 Olympic gold medalist could be Jamie Gray, Team USA’s women’s air rifle shooter.

By virtue of schedule, women’s air rifle leads off all Olympic events starting at a brisk 8:00 a.m. on Day One.

But, this shooter, who trains at Fort Benning with the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) won’t need reveille. She’ll be ready to go, armed with a match plan and years of training, but more of that in a moment…

Background

So, how does Jamie Gray get ready for the Olympics? “Of course I do a lot of working out, cycling, running, ping-pong, tennis. I just got married recently, spending time with my husband (AMU Staff Sergeant Hank Gray) when I can. He’s a shooter also so we work together.”

We couldn’t resist asking, who’s the better shot? “That is a hard question, good thing we shoot two different events. But, if we’d have to compete against each other I think I would win … I think it depends on the day.”

Jamie Gray represented Team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in two events, air rifle and three-position rifle. There she set personal bests and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. This Columbus State University shooting coach has won World Championships in 2010 and 2011 and is peaking at the right time.

So, what did it feel like just missing the podium in Beijing; are you hungry for more?

It’s bittersweet. Being fourth was a little bittersweet; however I wasn’t disappointed with my performance. Like my coach said, I was the dark horse; I started my match out really rough and kinda turned it around and cleaned the next 29. I can’t be mad about that performance. Probably one of my best performances on the international stage (in the Olympics) and you can’t be disappointed.

The two events Jamie will compete in are quite different. Air rifle is virtually a non-customized high-speed pellet gun. The event takes place at an indoor range with targets placed 10 meters from the shooter. The women take 40 shots in 75 minutes. All shots are from a standing position and NO, she isn’t aiming at the black dime-sized spot in the middle of the white square, she is aiming at a pencil dot inside the black circle!

That’s correct, a perfect 10 score requires a hit to the pencil dot! To make things more challenging, the guns do not have magnified sights; all shooting is done with sights off the firearm.

To see Jamie demonstrate the proper mechanics of holding the rifle in a standing position, check out the video interview below and watch around the 9:30 point.

Shooters must have stability, as Jamie puts it, “Good stance under pressure. All bone structure. The more muscle the more instability.” As muscles fatigue, shooters lose form. Muscles shake and wear down. A slightly compromised position adversely affects accuracy and repeatability.

Three-position rifle features a .22 or “small bore” rifle. In three-position, women shoot 20 shots from each position – prone, kneeling, and standing. The target is placed 50m down range and 0.75 meters off the ground. The range is outside so the event will be weather-affected. Shooters anticipate typical bad London conditions.

Shooters aim for the black, dime-sized center of the target for a maximum 10 score. At this level, shooters typically hit nines and tens. Here’s how close it will be, “Miss the (black) dot three times, you’re out. Have one bad shot, and miss entirely, you’re done.” No pressure. Jamie holds up a sample target at the 10:55 mark of the video, which puts into perspective the difficulty of this sport.

In London, the difference between a gold medal and 10th place could come down to one lapse in concentration, one bad shot, or one small puff of wind. And, at 8:00 a.m. while crews are still cleaning up after the opening ceremonies, it’s go time.

Here’s how Jamie gets ready,

“Before every match … I sit down and write a match plan. The next morning I read it on the way to the range. At the range, I do some holding (which is aiming the unloaded gun at a fixed point) before I get on the range. I hold against the wall; aim against the wall; make sure my body is ready to get in the position. Read my match plan again make sure I know what I am ready to do. Then it’s time to perform. I treat every shot as a match shot. Hopefully, it’s all good.

In this time, she will take 10 sighters, or practice shots, before starting the match. Over the course of the event, she will pick up, load, and put down the gun for each shot. Nothing is rushed. Precision and accuracy are the focus and for a “long shooter” like Jamie she intends to take the entire time block.

I intend to be a better competitor than ever…

We wish you the best of luck, Jamie, at bringing home Team USA’s first gold medal.

You can keep up with all of Jamie’s adventures by following her on Twitter.

Image via: ledger-enquirer.com