Gun Owners We Love: Corey Cogdell-Unrein

Two-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein won a bronze-medal last Friday at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in Gabala, Azerbaijan.

Two-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein won a bronze medal last Friday at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in Gabala, Azerbaijan.

U.S. athletes have now earned medals in four of the five shotgun events thus far, including two gold (Men's Skeet & Double Trap), silver (Women's Skeet), and the latest medal in the prolific career of Cogdell-Unrein, who now owns seven World Cup medals. This success earned Cogdell-Unrein enough points (34) through USA Shooting’s Olympic Points System to make her eligible for nomination to her third straight Olympic team. However, the U.S. has not yet earned a second quota in Women's Trap. If the second quota isn’t earned athletes will have to earn the lone Olympic nomination through the Trials system. The final chance to earn the remaining quota will come at the Shotgun World Championships in September.

Cogdell-Unrein started shooting when she was 14 years old. Her parents got her the shotgun and she started shooting with 4-H. She was fortunate to have former Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) President Dave Kaiser as her coach. At 16, at an Olympic Development Camp, Corey was introduced to International Trap. This style of shooting and competition suited her. Corey made the National Development Team in 2006 when she placed first in the junior women’s trap competition. That same day, she made the National Team when her score also placed her third in the open women’s trap competition. Corey soon moved to the Olympic Training Center as a resident athlete in Colorado Springs.

In her first international competition, the 2007 Changwon World Cup, Corey took the bronze medal. Shortly thereafter, she won the bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games. She then earned a spot on her first U.S. Olympic Team in March of 2008. In August of 2008, Corey won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

In 2012 she again made the Olympic team. She did well but failed to medal.

Yeah, she’s clearly a woman who knows who she is and what she wants. To get to know the woman behind the resume I asked her a few questions.

RANGE365: How did you start shooting?

Cogdell-Unrein: My parents encouraged me to try new things. They wanted me to follow my passions. I tried shotgun shooting with 4-H and fell in love with it. Shooting just made sense to me. I was also lucky. I had a great coach. His name is Dave Kaiser. He is a former Amateur Trapshooting Association president. Shooting wasn't natural for me though, not at first. It took hard work. I'm left-eye dominant, but right-handed. Dave helped me overcome that and to start shooting well. When I was 14 years old I started competing locally. Then Dave took me and other shooters to the Grand American Trapshooting championships three years in a row. That gave me a taste for real competition and taught me a lot.

Dave also instructed me to look to others for tips, so at each competition I’d get shooting advice from other athletes. I even traveled for a lesson alongside four-time Olympian Bret Erickson. Learning to reach out to others is a critical part of any endeavor.

RANGE365: How much do you shoot each day?

Cogdell-Unrein: When I'm in training mode I shoot 100-250 shells, six days per week. That takes about four to six hours. Other time is spent doing drills, working out and visiting the sports psychologist to make sure my focus is right.

RANGE365: How much of shooting is mental?

Cogdell-Unrein: After your body has learned to mount the shotgun in the proper way every time, shooting is 98 percent mental. This is what really separates the great shooters from the average ones. You have to put on your game face. The best way I can describe it is to say your mind is like an ocean; there are always waves and you can't stop them, you can only deal with them. Like waves, thoughts roll in. Some are negative. So, for example, if I've been missing a hard left-hand target, my mind might think "oh no, this is the target I have trouble with." That's a negative and counterproductive thought, so I just program myself to think, "Good, a left-hand target, I can conquer these."

It’s amazing how much being able to control your thoughts and worries comes from your upbringing. I was given a solid start and so I have a base of support in me to stand upon.

RANGE365: When did you need this composure most?

Cogdell-Unrein: By far it was the Beijing Olympics. I was only 21 years old then. No one expected me to win. I wasn't even expected to make the team. Nevertheless, I made the six-person final in trap. We shot the round and I found myself in a four-way tie for the bronze medal.

It was a sudden-death shootout. If you miss, you’re out unless everyone else misses. The four of us drew our positions. I ended up fourth—last is the worst. I had to wait while everyone else shot. That’s nerve wracking.

The first shooter went and missed. Then the second took her turn and missed. Then the third shooter went to the line and missed. The pressure knocked them over like dominoes. All I had to do was hit one target and I’d be the bronze medalist.

I was shaking worse than I had in my whole life. I walked up to the line and prayed. Then I told myself it was just another target and it came flying out and I shot and it broke. I don’t even remember hearing the gun. It was just so incredible.

Nothing can really prepare you for the Olympics. After four years of competing and training and fighting for a spot on the team you get 75 targets. That’s it. Most other sports don’t do that to you. You don’t get second chances. You don’t get semi-finals like they do in a lot of the track events. It all comes down to how you perform on that day.

RANGE365: Will you stick with the shooting sports?

Cogdell-Unrein: Well, I didn't win a medal in the London Olympics but I came close. Typically it takes a trap shooter about eight years to reach their potential and I'm just getting there. I'm now shooting better than I ever have, so I really have to stick around a little longer to see how much further I can go.

I love competing. I really enjoy the camaraderie with the other talented shooters here. I’ve had some great champions to learn from and now I’m beginning to help some of the younger shooters coming into the camp.

I also do shooting clinics for young shooters and love helping them learn to shoot and therefore to master themselves. They all won’t be champions, but shooting offers a great way for someone to learn to control their emotions and to concentrate on a real, attainable goal. When they do well they get instant gratification, but it’s not like a video game. When they’re shooting they’re really doing something. I think that’s important. I think it’s a great life lesson.