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Sport Americans Vincent Hancock, Amber English share podium on golden day for USA Shooting

11:55  28 november  2021
11:55  28 november  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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TOKYO – Long before U.S. skeet shooters Amber English and Vincent Hancock shared golden glory atop the podium at the Tokyo Olympics on the same day, they shared meals together as teenagers in their respective childhood homes.

English, 31, and Hancock, 32, met when they were each 16 and just beginning their shooting careers. Since then, they’ve remained close confidants, leaning on each other for advice and inspiration throughout half a lifetime of shooting.

“I couldn't be happier for her,” Hancock said. “I love that girl like a sister. Now we both have medals around our necks.”

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In the women’s event, English came out on top in the final with 56 hits, setting an Olympic record at the Asaka Shooting Range. She only missed four shots in the final, finishing ahead of Italy’s Diana Bacosi (51 hits) and China’s Wei Meng (46 hits).

a person posing for the camera: Amber English (USA) and Vincent Hancock (USA) both won gold in the skeet events during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Asaka Shooting Range. © Grace Hollars, Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports Amber English (USA) and Vincent Hancock (USA) both won gold in the skeet events during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Asaka Shooting Range.

The Colorado Springs native set herself up for success in the final by finishing third in the qualifier with 121 hits, just four less than a perfect score.

“I was a little relieved that I didn't have to shoot off prior to the final,” English said. “So I was happy to walk into that position all alone. My last round of today, I knew I had to shoot a 25 and I was just really, really happy that I was able to perform when I needed.”

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A push to get back into shooting

For English, the road to Tokyo twisted and turned in ways that almost led her to quit the sport. English fell short of making the 2012 London team and the 2016 Rio team. In early 2016, her father Mike, a five-time national shooting champion, died.

To care for herself mentally, English took time away from the range. She joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in February 2017 with the aspiration of becoming an officer. At first, English was hesitant to throw herself back into the sport.

“After he passed, it was very, very hard to get back on the range,” English said. “But actually the first person who got me back into shooting and on the range was Vinny. He was out in Colorado Springs for some events. So I owe him a lot for pushing me to get out there and do it.”

After taking the leap back into shooting with Hancock’s encouragement, she quickly found her rhythm again. In 2018, English earned a bronze medal at the world championships. She earned two World Cup medals, too – one in 2018 and one in 2019.

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Hancock, now a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the first to do so in skeet, is no stranger to success. But he had experienced wavering love for the sport, too. After becoming the first man to earn consecutive skeet gold medals at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012, Hancock missed the final in 2016 and finished 15th.

The hiccup taught Hancock to appreciate not only the highs, the gold medals and the record-setting performances, but it also showed him the importance of choosing to be happy no matter the outcome. Hancock took 2017 off and when he returned to the sport in 2018, he went undefeated won the world championship.

MORE: American Amber English wins gold in women's skeet shooting

That newfound mentality powered him through a shaky final round of the qualifier at the Tokyo Olympics when Hancock missed three shots. He corrected his mechanics in the shoot-off and refused to let a few missed targets foil his upcoming final.

“After that, I really started enjoying myself,” Hancock said. “I was like, I don't know if anybody else noticed it, but I had a little bit of a grin coming off after that first station (of the final). I'm like, alright, it's game on. We're good. Let's do this again.”

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Hancock completed the final with 59 hits and missed just one, placing ahead of Denmark’s Jesper Hansen (55 hits) and Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Rashidi (46 hits). Through two rounds and one station, Hancock had a perfect 24 hits and was tied with Finland's Eetu Kallioinen and Al-Rashidi.

Third gold medal for U.S. shooters

The four-time Olympian missed his first shot at station four in the third round, but held on to the lead and never missed another target. When he curled up to the ground after securing gold, it wasn’t because he was celebrating – his back hurt. He was simply trying to find some relief after a grueling competition.

a man holding a baseball bat: Vincent Hancock competes in men's skeet shooting at Asaka Shooting Range. © Grace Hollars, USA TODAY Sports Vincent Hancock competes in men's skeet shooting at Asaka Shooting Range.

“Just coming out here and trying to compete for a gold medal, it's exhausting,” Hancock said. “It truly is. Not everybody's able to come out here and compete at the level that they want, so you never know.”

An Olympic opportunity only comes once every four years, five years in this particular cycle, and both English and Hancock managed to compete at the level they aspired to. Just five days into Olympic competition, the U.S. has already earned three gold medals in shooting.

“It sets the tone of what can be expected from USA Shooting,” Hancock said. “Our athletes have been competing at a really high level for quite a few years now. I think that's because we're a small sport, we don't get quite the recognition. But when looking at the number of medals that we win on a yearly basis, it's impressive.”

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English and Hancock were happy to share the golden spotlight on Monday, and they’re eager to make room for more U.S. shooters in the coming days.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Americans Vincent Hancock, Amber English share podium on golden day for USA Shooting

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