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Vincent Hancock 2012 Getty Images
Date
21 Jul 2016
Tags
RIO 2016 , IOC News , Shooting

Skeet shooter Hancock covering every angle for title defence

Reigning double Olympic skeet champion Vince Hancock (USA) took time out of his schedule at the Olympic shooting test event in April to explain the ins and outs of the skeet event.

Born on 19 March 1989 in Eatonton (USA), Vincent Hancock is nothing short of a phenomenon in the world of shooting. After picking up a rifle at an early age, he began specialising in skeet. In this discipline clays are launched from two traps 40 metres apart, one high and the other low, with shooters shooting at the targets from seven different stations.

Hancock took part in his first competition at the age of 11 and was so talented that he landed his maiden world title just five years later in 2005. Aged only 18, he set a new world points record at a World Cup event in Lonato (ITA), shooting 125 in qualification and 25 in the final for a perfect score of 150.

Back-to-back Olympic golds

A year later, Hancock made a stunning Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, beginning his tilt for gold by shooting 121 in qualifying, a new Olympic record. In the following day’s final, Norway’s Tore Brovold shot a perfect 25 to join the American teenager on 145 points and force a shoot-off. Hancock edged it 4-3 to take the Olympic title, with France’s Anthony Terras also prevailing in a shoot-off to win the bronze.

In the years that followed, the sharp-eyed Hancock continued his winning ways. Victorious in a string of ISSF World Cup events, he retained his world title in 2009 and won gold at the Pan American Games in 2011. By the time he arrived at London 2012, he was a firm favourite to retain his title and duly lived up to expectations. In qualifying he set a new Olympic record of 123, to which he added a perfect 25 in the final which gave him yet another Games record. He won by two hits from Denmark’s Anders Golding, with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah a further two back in bronze medal position.

Hancock, a sergeant in the US army, won a third world championship crown in 2015 and headed to the Rio 2016 test event at the Olympic Shooting Centre as the world number one.

Eyes on the prize

“Every skeet field is the same. Every target should fly technically the same, but every range looks different,” said Hancock, explaining the secrets of his sport at the Rio Olympic competition site. “The background is different, the lighting, how blue the sky is: that actually changes the way that our targets appear. Some ranges are faster than others. Some ranges appear slower than others. Technically, they’re supposed to be all the same speed, all the same settings, everything. But every one is different.”

Describing the test event as the perfect way to prepare for his bid for a third straight gold, the American shooter added: “So, getting here and seeing what it’s going to be like, seeing what the range looks like, feeling how the targets feel as they fly through the air and getting your hold points on the ground, because the bunkers here are a little bit different, they’re spaced out different.”

“So everything is different. We’re just trying to get here and use it as a test event. That’s exactly what it’s here for, so that when we get to the Olympics it’s not a brand new range. So, the more practice I can get now will help me in the future when I get here for the Olympics.”

“We’ll get five rounds of practice here at the test event and then we’ll have five rounds of competition, plus the final. And I’m using up all this practice. I’m just trying to make sure that I’ve got solid hold points, that I know when I come back it’ll be exactly the same. Kind of get the feeling for the speeds so that I can go back home and set my targets to the speed that they’re going to be here.”

“Here’s what the background looks like. Is there a range that’s close to me, within an hour or two, that I can go to, that looks very, very similar? I just want to try to make things as close to the same as possible.”

Hancock
© Getty Images

“Knowing the speed, knowing your hold points and getting used to where the targets are going to fly: that’s the biggest key of what you’re looking for in any type of practice you can get on these ranges. So, I’m just trying to practice here. Always trying to win, of course. That’s just how I’m wired. But just making sure that everything is going to be correct for getting to Rio and winning a third gold.”

Though Hancock could only finish fifth at the test event, which was won by Sweden’s Marcus Svensson following a shoot-off with Mairaj Ahmad Khan (IND), he had the consolation of collecting the 2015 ISSF Shooter of the Year award in recognition of his achievements last year.

“I was here in 2007, when I won gold at the Pan American Games,” added the American. “Rio is very cool. I will be back in August to try and win another gold.”

That is an objective the meticulous Hancock has every chance of achieving.
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