COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Hundreds of athletes are battling it out in Colorado Springs this week for the chance to represent the U.S. Olympic team in Air Rifle shooting.
Friday, December 8 was the one day that all the Olympic hopefuls got a break from the stress of the six-day-long, second round of trials. However, those dozens of athletes: male, female, and those competing in the Paralympics, used that day for more practice.
Those hundreds of competitors will be narrowed down to just two per team, in the 10-meter and 50-meter competition, per gender.
For perspective, the margin for error among shooters is slim. The goal in Air Rifle shooting is to hit the "ten ring," which is worth 10 points. Typically every shooter at the trials is able to consistently nail the ten ring, but their score varies by the decimal depending on how close or far you are from it.
You would be surprised to learn how small that ring actually is.
"Your ten ring is the size of a 12-point period. So like when you're typing or something, that's the size of the ten ring," explains 21-year-old Rylan Kissell, a top-ranked shooter from Littleton, CO.
Kissell was a team and individual NCAA national champion with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, a traditional powerhouse in the collegiate ranks. He's also routinely involved in various world competitions. He is currently ranked among the best at the trials so far.
Kissell says it's about focusing on each shot, which there are 60 in a round.
"Definitely staying locked in and keeping, again, discipline I think, is the biggest thing," Kissell said.
Tim Sherry, 29, is a member of the U.S Army Air Rifle marksman team, based in Georgia.
He first discovered Air Rifle at the Colorado Springs Olympic facility while growing up in Denver.
"I'm competing in both air rifle and the .22 [rifle]. I'm in the top three for both of those, so now hopefully, I'll be able to be in the top four for both of them," said Sherry.
Sherry adds it's an amazing experience after all these years to be back in the Springs, competing for the chance to represent his country.
"You know, everyone knows that it's, you know, such a big deal, not only within the sport but outside of the sport. And I think that kind of adds another layer of importance to this competition. And, of course, being able to go to the Olympics. So, yeah, for me, like I said, it's definitely a full circle moment," said Sherry.
Katie Tedeschi, 20, is a junior at the University of Ole Miss after transferring from NC State. She was born and raised in Colorado Springs before her family moved to Black Forest. She says she grew up playing all different kinds of sports before falling in love with shooting.
Tedeschi says the atmosphere of the buzzing training facility, where she's spent several years perfecting her shot, is invigorating.
"It's a different feel and different experience. And so coming to shoot these matches is really exciting and really fun because you've got people from all across the country who want to come shoot and kind of like compete and be the best," explained Tedeschi.
She was not able to qualify for the Olympic trials, due to the quotas of needing to win other tournaments in order to have the opportunity, however sporting the red, white, and blue, is without a doubt on her list.
"It's something that I'm entirely interested in. And so, that is the goal, is to make it to the Olympics," she added.
The third and final round of the Air Rifle trials will be in January, and the third and final round of the small-bore (.22 caliber rifle) will be in March. After that, Team USA will have their candidates for Paris 2024.