Jitters get best of Uptagrafft in Olympic pistol debut

LONDON – Despite having a difficult Olympic debut, Navy Reserve Petty Officer 1at Class Sandra Uptagrafft's experience in London on Sunday featured enough goose bumps and memories to last a lifetime.

Uptagrafft, wife of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptatgrafft, finished 28th with a score of 378 in the women's 10-meter air pistol event at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

First-time Olympic jitters, common to many shooters who toe the line for the first time on the world's grandest stage, led to a result that was not in her game plan.

"Once I hit the match button, it hit me that I am at the Olympic games and it kind of took me out of my rhythm," Sandra said. "It took me a while to settle down and refocus. That's what I was able to do my last two strings. It's really disappointing because I knew going into the match that this would happen."

China's Wenjen Guo won the gold medal with a total score of 488.1 points. France's Celine Goberville (486.6) claimed the silver. Ukraine's Olena Kostevych (486.6) took the bronze.

Adding to Uptagrafft's displeasure was the fact that her sister Andrea traveled from Singapore on Saturday to watch her compete in a match for the first time. Sandra said she was thinking 'this is not an example of what to do,' and she was disheartened because her sister saw her shoot poorly.

The outcome, though, had no bearing on the joy Andrea experienced while watching her sister compete in the biggest sporting event in the world.

"It was pretty cool," Andrea said. "I was surprised everyone was so calm and calculated. I was trying to keep calm as well because I was slightly nervous and hoping for her to do well.

"I am very proud of her. I know this whole thing is overwhelming."

After the match, the sisters shared a hug. Uptagrafft's husband, however, was not there for the reunion. Eric missed his wife's Olympic debut because of a lack of training space at the Olympic shooting venue for upcoming competitors, which forced several Team USA shooters to return to Denmark to train.

Eric will compete Aug. 3 in men's prone rifle. Although he missed Sandra's match, they were able to share something much more memorable when they walked together in the Opening Ceremony at Olympic Stadium on Friday night. That was a moment Sandra will never forget.

"Walking into the opening ceremonies was the ultimate high," she said. "I still get goose bumps thinking about it now. To walk the opening ceremonies with my husband, hand-in-hand, just made it that much more meaningful and something I will carry the rest of my life.

Uptagrafft said she enjoyed the camaraderie and support exhibited by all of the U.S. shooters, something they normally do not share because most matches are spread around the world. The venues and the athletes' village have been great, she said.

With one event completed, Sandra is ready to compete again Aug. 1 in the women's 25-meter sport pistol event.

"I definitely had a learning experience here and I am hoping to take what I learned in this match and take it into my next one," she said. "Hopefully this got the jitters out of the way, and if I can execute my shot plan, I hope to find myself in the finals."