Shooting For Gold: The Coronavirus Outbreak Stalls Olympic Plans | KUNC

Shooting For Gold: The Coronavirus Outbreak Stalls Olympic Plans

Originally published on March 30, 2020 1:28 pm

Vincent Hancock, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time Olympian in skeet shooting, was looking forward to competing in Tokyo for another medal this year. But with the coronavirus outbreak, Hancock’s Olympic aspirations are put on hold.

“My world has just been turned upside down, but at the same time, I’ve been kind of expecting that over the last few days,” he said. “We’re going to get through it.”

Hancock said he will need to make adjustments to his training schedule, which is carefully planned out to help him peak just in time for the global competition. Now, he’s waiting for the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Olympic Committee to announce new dates for 2021 so that he can continue to prepare.

“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet because I don’t have firm dates,” he said. “I’m going to continue practice as usual right now and then once I find out more then I’ll start making changes to my training plan.”

Hancock said even outside the Olympics, all the shooting competitions he’s aware of have closed through July, and the International Shooting Sports Federation’s plans are “up in the air.” The lack of competitions means Hancock will take a financial hit.

“My livelihood is made on being able to compete,” he said. “We don’t win any money for winning medals in my sport as of right now, but my sponsors are the ones that pay for me to be able to do what I need to do, and they support me so that I can support my family and my career.”

Sergey Ponomarev/AP

The United States’ Vincent Hancock shoots during a Men’s Skeet training session at Clay Target Field at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Sergey Ponomarev / KERA

While Hancock said his sponsors have been understanding, he said he’ll still miss competing at the Olympic games this year and that feeling of awe he gets even after three times around.

“It’s always a wow moment,” Hancock said. “I got to watch the Olympic torch run through my hometown with one of my lower-school teachers running the torch through the center of our town, so I’ve been an Olympic fan since I can remember. Being able to go to that first Olympics is a dream come true.”

While winning medals gives Hancock a great feeling, he said being able to walk behind the American flag is what he’ll miss most. His most vivid memory from his first time at the Olympics was watching the American flag light up during the opening ceremony.

“You’re getting ready to go and then as soon as we walk to the edge of the tunnel, the flag just explodes into color like the most vibrant red, white and blue I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “You just hear people, the noise level starting to go up and up and up and up. It’s just an amazing feeling that I will never ever forget. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

He’ll also miss the adrenaline rush.

“I tell my students, that’s when you know you’re alive is because you have nerves,” he said. “I love that feeling. I crave it. That’s why I keep doing it.”

Luckily, Hancock said shooting is a sport you can do for a long time. Hancock just turned 31 a few days ago, and said he plans to at least compete through the 2028 Olympics in L.A. Then he said he has plans to develop businesses in the North Texas shooting community.

But for now, there’s a lot more to be done like passing the torch to the next generation. Hancock said 18-year-old Austen Smith in Keller, who qualified for skeet shooting in the Olympics this year, is the perfect example of the sport’s influence. Hancock said Smith was focused on her studies and didn’t enjoy any sports for most of her life, until her dad brought her to the shooting range where she got hooked.

“We have an opportunity with this sport to really make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what I want to focus on outside of my shooting and athletic career is making sure that people know how much fun this sport is and what a difference it can make,” he said.

While his shot at another Olympic medal must wait until 2021, Hancock said practice doesn’t stop.

He still has keys to the range where he’ll continue to shoot his shot.

This story was produced by KERA, a Guns & America partner. Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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