USA -(Ammoland.com)- Recognition as USA Shooting Athletes of the Year for 2016 goes to a fabled marksman and perhaps his heir apparent.
Rifle sharpshooters Matt Emmons and Ginny Thrasher earn the distinctive nod, one for his season-long accuracy and the other for a year unlike any other.
While Thrasher and Emmons earned top overall athlete honors for their profound 2016 performances, top discipline honors for Shotgun, Pistol and Paralympic.
Recognizing the top performers in each discipline for 2016, we showcase an Olympic legend in Kim Rhode and a Paralympic first in McKenna Dahl.
Those two join Josh Richmond and Will Brown in earning Athlete of the Year honors in their respective disciplines.
Not many saw it coming.
It’s hard to predict a 19-year-old having the type of year Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) put together in 2016. An unprecedented emergence that started at West Virginia University with a sweep of individual titles at the NCAA Rifle Championships, something never done before from a freshman.
She proved that was just the beginning by winning smallbore Olympic Trials, shooting her way into both event finals at World Cup Munich, and earning a national title in Air Rifle.
Then, on August 6, the real magic happened when she became an Olympic gold medalist in Air Rifle and for 24 hours became the face of the U.S. Olympic Team as the first gold medalist of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Proving Rio was no fluke, she backed up Olympic gold with a bronze during the World Cup Final.
Confidence has played a major role in Ginny’s success.
During the post-match press conference in Rio Ginny said, “You have to have the confidence to go into every match and know that your self-worth isn’t invested in the results of that match, but you can do anything you want to do.”
There’s just one thing missing during a superior year for one of the greatest marksmen of our time, a fourth Olympic medal.
Despite that, there was a simply a whole lot more great performances put forth by Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey) in 2016.
It was the greatest pre-Olympic run he had had prior to any of the other three previous Olympic Games he competed in.
Three-Position Rifle results that included top podium finishes at World Cup Bangkok and World Cup Munich, including a Finals World Record in Germany.
Throw in another silver at World Cup Rio and a Prone bronze there too.
He came back from a Rio disappointment to land not one, but two World Cup Finals bronze medals in Prone and Three-Position Rifle.
Quite simply you run out of superlatives in trying to describe Rhode’s accomplishments. Six straight of anything is impressive, but to win consecutive medals at six Olympic Games over a two-decade span is almost unconceivable.
So much so that just one other person on the planet can boast of such accomplishment.
Her bronze in Rio stands her apart once again, but her year also included a silver and bronze medal earned in World Cup action.
Given the success of her teammate Corey Cogdell-Unrein, her spot as shotgun’s top athlete wasn’t secured until winning the World Cup Final.
Etching her own name in history was Dahl and for it she’s the 2016 Paralympian of the Year. She got there by becoming the first female to earn a Paralympic shooting medal for the U.S. Her bronze medal in Rio was even more gratifying when you consider that she was the only female in the Final of her Prone Air Rifle event and she was the youngest finalist by about 20 years.
The future is bright for Dahl, and given her success in Rio, so too is it for a Paralympic program that earned its first medal since 2004.
The memories of her big day are still fresh. “It was phenomenal. I don’t know if words will ever be able to truly describe the amazing moments of that day.”
The top male finisher in Rio was Richmond in Double Trap and it helped earn him top Male Shotgun honors. A third-round 23/30 would be Richmond’s undoing from a possible berth in the semifinals, but not before a valiant final two rounds in which he dropped just two targets and a 12-target three-person shoot-off he’d eventually lose to two-time Olympic bronze medalist Fehaid Aldeehani, who would later go on to win an historic gold medal as well.
Richmond would settle for a seventh-place finish, nine places higher than in London.
Additionally, Richmond would capture a World Cup win in San Marino and finish seventh during World Cup Rio.
Brown’s Olympic performance in two Pistol events with 10th and 12th-place finishes respectively in Free and Air Pistol would also be a U.S. highlight in 2016.
Sure, it wasn’t the medal he sought in either event, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find the results great nonetheless.
Brown’s two-gun finish was better overall than the 10 previous U.S. attempts since 1988 when both Air and Free Pistol were on the Olympic program at the same time.
Brown’s finish in Free Pistol will go down as the highest U.S. Olympic finish in this event since 1992 and only the third top-10 finish since 1964.
His season also included a silver-medal finish at World Cup Bangkok, a fifth-place finish at World Cup Rio and an eighth-place result at the World Cup Final.
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