Through the years working at HIVIZ Shooting Systems, I’ve had the great opportunities to meet US Olympians and several of them holding numerous Gold and Silver Medals! I remember watching the Olympics when I was little thinking, “WOW, these guys are stars!” Never did I ever imagine I’d get to not only meet one, but several, and forging a friendship with one in particular.
Amy Van Dyken, holding six Olympic Gold medals in swimming, four from 1996 Summer Olympics, is a Colorado native and attended CSU in Fort Collins. I met her at a benefit sporting clays shoot in her name for the Colorado Youth Outdoors. She actually rode me from the range to the lodge in her golf cart….Ooooo…my brush with fame! I thought it was neat though and she was a very nice lady. Good shooter too!
Vincent Hancock, 2008 Gold Medalist in skeet I’ve met and spoke with several times at various industry trade shows. Like a little kid, I asked if I could touch his Gold Medal. Cool! He came into our booth with Jon Michael McGrath, who was an Olympic Team alternate that year and has since won Gold at the ISSF World Championships in Sydney, Australia this year. Jon Michael, I believe is now ranked No. 5 worldwide! ….Our 2012 Olympic favorite…(and HIVIZ Pro Staffer!). I could do an entire article on Jon Michael! (On my ‘to-do list”).
Lanny and Tracy Barnes are twin Olympic biathletes from Durango, Colorado. They competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and will be at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I met these ladies through The Women’s Outdoor Media Association (WOMA) www.thewoma.com, attending a retreat near Gunnison last October with them. Since then we’ve been to a BWB camp in Steamboat Springs. Biathletes are skiing and rifle shooting…but these girls are naturals at pistol shooting too! Check out their website www.twinbiathletes.com .
My absolute favorite has to be Lones Wigger. Lones I’ve known for the past seven years now. I met him when I began shooting the Sportman’s Team Challenge, (STC) events. Lones works with USA Shooting in Colorado Springs and is also the Regional Match Director for the STC event in Raton, NM.
He grew up in Montana, and a retired Army Lt. Col., he is a Vietnam Veteran and spent 25 year on active duty. Lones has one Gold and one Silver medals in Small Bore Rifle Shooting from the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and two Gold and one Silver from the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. He has been referred to as the greatest competitive rifle shooter the US has yet produced. Besides his Olympic records he held or co-held 27 world records, 14 team and 13 individual records. He’s won 58 National Championships, 22 World Championships, and the list goes on. (Lones, I hope I’m getting your stats correct!)
In 2008 Lones was inducted to the US Olympic Hall of Fame. I believe he was the first rifle shooter ever, inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I’ve gotten to know him fairly well from the shoots and of course he is in attendance at the SHOT Show and NRA Shows. Either he or I make it a point to run by the other’s booth for a quick hug and visit. And FUNNY! This guy is pretty tough and in command at the shoots, but has a great sense of humor. We were on the range at the Whittington Center during the match when four mule deer meandered onto the course. A cease-fire was called immediately. The deer seemed mesmerized by us. They just stopped and stared. We waited…and waited…and waited. They didn’t seem too concerned. Finally Lones bellows, “We’re going HOT!” You’d think they understood his words exactly! Their ears and heads popped up and they”high-tailed” it out of there! We all chuckled along with Lones.
Don’t mess with the Colonel!
I’m just in awe of these athletes and have the deepest respect for the discipline and training it takes to achieve their levels of skill! I’m so glad our paths crossed, even if it was only to meet once. And Jon Michael, Lanny and Tracy: I know I’ll be seeing you guys a lot more. We’ll all be here cheering you on in 2012 and 2014!!!
Picture of Lones from USA Shooting.