Michael McPhail, a shooting competitor who works and trains at the home of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, won a gold medal, an Olympic quota, and nearly broke a world record in the men’s prone rifle competition at the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup for Rifle and Pistol last week.
McPhail, from Darlington, Wisc., had all eyes on him during his final string as the Qualification round of 60 shots was winding down. He wrapped the Qualification round with an impressive 631.9 points and finished .4 points away from tying the World Record, garnering cheers and a round of applause of the crowd in attendance.
“I was thinking about the World Record with 15 [shots] to go!” McPhail said. “I’ve shot above the World Record before in national-level matches, two or three times before. I wanted it pretty bad.”
Fellow American Matt Emmons also had a strong qualification round. He finished qualification in second place with a score of 628.2. Emmons had won gold and an Olympic quota at the most recent ISSF Rifle/Pistol World Cup of the season in Changwon, South Korea in April. (A quota place guarantees that someone from a given country, not necessarily the athlete who earned it, will compete in that Olympic event.)
Once the pair entered the final, McPhail continued to move up. He spent the first half of the final trailing in second place behind Ole Kristian Bryhn of Norway. As Bryhn started to falter in his final six shots, McPhail continued to shoot well to take the lead and eventually, the gold medal. You can see videos of McPhail being interviewed here:
And of the Men’s Prone Rifle Final here:
The American men weren’t the only ones who did well at the ISSF World Cup. Amy Sowash, from Richmond, Kentucky, finished the qualification round of women’s three-position rifle with a score of 585, enough to move her on to the finals. By qualifying, Sowash earned an Olympic quota.
“I found out I had won the quota right before the Finals,” she said. “[Assistant National Coach] Jason Parker got the confirmation and he was like ‘You’ve got the quota, now go do good things.’ I knew it going in and it was awesome.”
Sowash said knowing she had a quota locked down prior to entering the final helped take some of the pressure off. Sowash finished seventh overall.