Less than three weeks away from the shooting competition in the 2012 Olympics, area shooters showcased their skills Tuesday at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning.
"I feel good," said Jamie Gray, a shooter in the 10 meter air rifle. "It's going well. As long as I walk in and perform, that's is what it boils down to."
Gray, assistant coach for the Columbus State University Rifle Team, joined other Olympians at the Pool Range Complex to hone their skills. At least 10 shooters from the area will compete at the games in London.
Joining Gray are seven members from the Marksmanship Unit. They are Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker in the three-position rifle; Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft and Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail, both competing in men's rifle; Sgt Josh Richmond in double trap; 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Sgt. Glenn Eller in double trap; and Vincent Hancock, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in men' skeet. Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, who was wounded in Iraq and lost his right leg, is the first active duty soldier to be nominated for the Paralympic Games to compete in 10 meter air rifle and 50 meter prone rifle.
Uptagrafft and his wife Sandra, a petty officer first class in the Navy Reserves, make up a husband-wife team from the region. "It's definitely a unique situation," said Sandra, a shooter in the 10 meter air pistol and 25 meter sport pistol.
Jonathan Hall, former NCAA individual national champion and CSU rifle team leader, wasn't at the event but will compete on the rifle team.
To prepare for the competition, Olson said he and other shooters talked about mentally preparing for the event while shooting at a recent warm-up match in London. "I'm feeling very good, feeling relaxed and feeling confident," he said.
Shooting shoulder to shoulder with other shooters gave Olson a chance to experience the same conditions they will face in a few weeks.
"I'm just really concentrating on working on my performance," Olson said. "I know with a good performance, my score will take care of itself."
McPhail was one of the last members of the Marksmanship unit to qualify for a spot on the Olympic team. He and partner Uptagrafft have been sharing information on how to get better.
"Our goal is for both of us to medal," McPhail said. "We don't really care what color we get. We both want to medal."
After making it to the games in 1996, Uptagrafft needed 16 years to return to the contest. He earned enough points in World Cup competition last year to automatically qualify for the Olympics before the trials.
His shooting hasn't been up to form lately but he's doing better, he said.
"It's been kind of a rough spring," Uptagrafft said. "My shooting hasn't been that good. I'm starting to get on track. I'm looking forward to trying it out in London."
Uptagrafft said he and McPhail have been doing some last-minute tweaking to make sure the their guns are shooting properly.
"That is what we are mostly working on, trying to get each other in the right place at the right time," Uptagrafft said.
The Marksmanship Unit leaves Fort Benning for Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 20. The team will spend five days there training before flying to London for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics.