The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning is sending seven soldiers to the 2012 Olympics in London and two shooters will represent Columbus State.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker secured a spot Monday, when he won the men's three-position rifle match during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the post's Pool Range Complex.
Jonathan Hall, former NCAA individual national champion and CSU rifle team member, and Jamie Gray, current CSU assistant coach, qualified for the U.S. National Rifle Team.
Parker will join teammates on the shooting team next month. They are: Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft and Staff Sgt. Michael McPhail, both qualified in the men's rifle prone; Sgt. Josh Richmond in double trap; 2008 Olympic gold medalist Sgt. Glenn Eller in double trap; and Sgt. Vincent Hancock, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in men's skeet. Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, who was wounded in Iraq, has qualified for the 2012 Paralympic Games. He is the first active-duty soldier to be nominated for the Paralympic Games.
Parker, a native of Omaha, Neb., said it is an honor to represent the Army and America at the Olympics.
"It's been a long four years working hard for another Olympics while fulfilling our mission here, and I can't wait to get over there," Olson said. "Everybody goes to the Olympics to win a gold medal, and I'm no different. That's the ultimate goal."
Hall, winner of the 2010
NCAA championship in air rifle, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle competition. A native of Carrollton, Ga., he is ranked 53rd in the world in the event.
Gray will compete in two events, the 10-meter air rifle and the 50-meter three-position competition. In the air rifle, she is ranked as the 26th-best female shooter in the world.
During qualifying for the Olympics, Parker shot a score of 1,166 on the first day and improved the second day, separating him from the rest of the pack.
"The toughest obstacle to overcome in Olympic trials is obviously the pressure," Parker said. "You get out there, and your heart is beating, and you know you have the expectations that you are going to do well. You have been preparing the past four years, and it all comes down to three days, and you just want to do your very best those three days."
He faced competition from shooter/instructors Spc. Joe Hall, Sgt. Joe Hein and Staff Sgt. George Norton.
Hall said he learned from losing to Parker. "Every match is another learning experience," he said. "Shooting against the top competition and that extra pressure is what you need. I absolutely love being a part of this unit, a part of this team."