USAMU's Eller wins gold, sets two records

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit has its first Olympic gold medalist in 24 years thanks to a record-setting day from Glenn Eller.

The elite group of marksmen based at Fort Benning entered the Beijing Games with 21 Olympic medals to its credit, accounting for 55 percent of the 38 Olympic shooting medals the United States has won since the USAMU was established in 1956.

Add one more to the list.

Eller won gold in men’s double trap shotgun early Tuesday morning and set two records in the process. Only a few hours after setting an Olympic qualifying record with his score of 145 targets, Eller completed his final round with an Olympic-record 190 total score.

Each score allowed him to break the previous Olympic record by one target. The 145-point qualifying score beat United Arab Emirates shooter Ahmed Al Maktoum’s 144 from the 2004 Athens Games. The 190 final score beat Australian Russell Mark’s record of 189 set in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Katy, Texas, native entered the finals with a commanding four-target lead over Francesco D’aniello. The Italian trimmed Eller’s lead by one target in the finals, outscoring him 46-45, but his 187 total targets left him with silver.

Eller’s USAMU teammate Jeff Holguin, who enlisted with him in Sept. 2006, entered the finals in third place, five targets behind Eller. However, a disappointing final-round score of 42 dropped the Californian into fourth place and out of the medals. China’s Hu Binyuan scored 46 points in the finals to slip past Holguin, finishing with 184 total points to Holguin’s 182, and take the bronze.

A five-time world champion, this was Eller’s third attempt for an Olympic medal. The onetime Auburn student contracted food poisoning just before competing in the 2000 Olympics and eventually placed 12th in double trap. He again came up short in the 2004 Games, finishing in 17th place.

No USAMU shooter had won gold since Edward Etzel (prone rifle) and Matthew Dryke (skeet shotgun) both won in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Until that point, at least one USAMU shooter had won gold in every Olympics in which the United States competed between 1964 and 1984. None had managed to do so since then and only two had won silver medals in that time.

Four of the six USAMU shooters who qualified for the Beijing Games have now competed. Aside from Eller and Holguin, Daryl Szarenski and Jason Parker both competed in the last two days.

Szarenski placed 14th in men’s 50-meter free pistol and Parker placed 23rd in men’s 10-meter air rifle.

Parker will compete again in men’s 50-meter three-position rifle, which will begin Saturday evening.

Yet to compete are the USAMU’s Mike Anti and Vincent Hancock.

Four-time Olympian Anti, a silver medalist in three-position rifle in the 2004 Athens Games, will begin qualifying in men’s 50-meter prone rifle on Thursday. The event finals will also be held that day. Also Thursday, Hancock will begin qualifying in men’s skeet shotgun, with the event finals set for the following day.