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MILITARY MATTERS: Numerous shooters from Fort Benning competing in the Olympics

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:39 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The U.S. Army helps train some top-ranked shooters to compete at the elite, international level while also serving their country. Members of the Army Marksmanship Unit on Fort Benning have won 24 Olympic medals since 1960.

Some of the world’s best shooters are on Fort Benning – and 6 of them are competing right now at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Five of those athletes are part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a big part of Team USA since it was founded in 1956. A former member of that unit, Eatonton Georgia native Vincent Hancock just won his unprecedented third Olympic gold in skeet shooting. Years ago, we talked to him about what it was like winning that first one in Beijing then heading to London 2012.

“Being able to walk to the opening ceremonies, get the medal hung around my neck, see the American flag raised, it was a surreal feeling. I’ve been part of a small fraternity of people who have gone to the Olympics, won a medal, then gone back to the Olympics,” Eatonton told WTVM in 2012.

A friend of his since they were teens, Amber English also just won gold in skeet shooting at her first Olympics. The reserve soldier started shooting at age 9. Now, she is part of the World Class athlete program on Fort Benning, where she is working toward becoming an Army officer. In Spring 2020, we talked to her and another local shooter about the Olympics being moved to 2021.

“We’ll take a postponement over a cancellation and even in our country and globally, and there’s a lot going on. The Olympics are going to be even bigger next year,” English told us a year ago.

Phillip Jungman is also thankful to be one of the 22 Americans on the team for the Summer Olympics happening in 2021. Last weekend, he finished 15th out of 30 shooters in skeet, not qualifying to move on.

There are also updates on the other Olympians from the marksmanship unit on Fort Benning, like Phenix City native Staff sergeant Sandra Uptagrafft. Assigned to the 98th Training Division, this reserve soldier finished 49th in the 10m air pistol in Tokyo. Her next event is the women’s 25m pistol Wednesday night.

Specialist Alison Weisz also shot at these Olympics, falling short of qualifying in her two 10m rifle events.

Two others from Fort Benning still have Olympic events this weekend, both in the 50m three position rifle - doing so in kneeling, prone and standing positions. Specialist Sagen Maddalena fires her rounds Saturday, while Sgt. Patrick Sunderman competes in the mens event Sunday night.

We wish them all the best at the 2020 Olympics!

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