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A Soldier from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit is joining some of his battle buddies in London this summer after winning the U.S. Olympic team trial match for Mens Rifle Prone June 5 here at Pool Range Complex.
Michael McPhail qualified for his first Olympic Games after a three-day performance on his home range and will compete alongside a USAMU counterpart in hopes of bringing back a medal.
Ive been working at this for a real long time, so this feels good, McPhail said. I have had a lot of people help me along the way. I cant tell you how many it takes to make an Olympian.
Coming off a bronze medal-winning performance at the London World Cup, the stage was set for McPhail to continue shooting and nail down an Olympic team berth. McPhail started the match June 2 with a 599 in the qualification round and followed it with a score of 105.4 in the first days final, establishing himself as the shooter to beat.
It doesnt hurt to go into the Olympic trials with quite a bit of confidence, McPhail said. The first day I really made a point to go out there and just do my job. After that I knew I was in front but I didnt look at the scoreboard at all. I did well just staying in the moment, taking it shot by shot.
Matthew Emmons, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the event and world record holder, and Jason Parker, McPhails teammate and a three-time Olympian, came back on the second day and put pressure on McPhail, outshooting the Darlington, Wis., native by a few points. Parker said all signs pointed to this being McPhails time, and although he lost this chance at another Olympic spot, he was glad his USAMU teammate secured his first Olympic berth.
Sgt. McPhail has had a great spring leading up to this event, so I was really looking at him to earn this spot, Parker said. He has a great chance of medaling at the Olympics, so after the first day I was happy to see that he had built up a good lead. After he shot that first day score, I just tried to do the very best I could and get prepared for the next event (in three days).
On the third day, McPhail put himself out of reach for anyone thinking of a serious run on his Olympic dream. Despite Emmons tying the national record with a perfect 600, McPhail posted a 598, then settled in to the finals, knowing a solid score would secure his trip to England. After taking the final shot of the match, McPhail stood up off the mat and received congratulations from fellow competitors, observers and several of his USAMU teammates, signaling to him he had made the team.
When you work your entire adult life for something, I really wanted this one bad, McPhail said. The first thing I felt was relief. Its easy for people to say he should win, but when you are going up against my teammates from the unit and an Olympic Gold Medalist and world record holder, its anything but easy.
McPhail will compete against and alongside USAMU teammate Eric Uptagrafft. Uptagrafft, who qualified for the games in 2011 after earning enough points in World Cup competition, said he is thrilled to have his friend and teammate along for the ride.
Weve been preparing together for the past four years, so it will not be a lot different than it is now, Uptagrafft said about training from here on out. He pushes me, I push him. After his first day and he shot a world-class score, I knew he was ready. I never thought that there was chance that he would crumble. After that first day, I knew this was his match to lose.
McPhail is the sixth Soldier from the unit who will shoot for gold in London. Besides McPhail and Uptagrafft, shotgun shooters Josh Richmond, Glenn Eller and Vincent Hancock will represent the Army and U.S. at the Olympics. Josh Olson will compete in the Paralympics.
Yeah, six guys are going, but it took the entire unit to get us there, McPhail said. It shows how good the unit is. It stems from the commander all the way down to the lowest private. Our gunsmiths are truly world-class and they give us a huge advantage. And I am confident we arent done yet. I think we are going to put another Soldier on the team.