With only 252 days to go until the start of the 2020 Olympic Games, athletes all over the world are preparing to battle it out for a sought-after ticket to Tokyo. And it’s no different for the USA Shooting team who are all vying to secure their spot at the Games.

We caught up with Dan Durben, National Rifle Coach, who explained the process USA Shooting employ to select its Olympic rifle shooting team.

First things first, quota places must be won. Since 1988, participation at the Olympic Games in shooting sport events is not guaranteed. National shooting federations must earn quota places during ISSF competitions. However, only athletes who have achieved the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) can fill quota places for their country. MQS’s must be obtained at specific events which have MQS status such as ISSF World Cups and Continental Championships. Finally, it’s important to note that a quota place guarantees an athlete from a given country — not necessarily the one who earned the quota — may compete in a specific Olympic event.

Each country can only enter two qualifying athletes for each event, equating to eight athletes in total across rifle disciplines. USA Shooting is going into the Games in a great position having secured all quotas available for the rifle team.

Now they’ve earned their quotas, it’s up to USA Shooting to decide the Olympic team. This is done through a two-part try-out system. For rifle disciplines, small-bore and air events are split and each has two separate trial events. Therefore, if you’re an athlete that shoots both disciplines, you could attend all four separate trials.

At the small-bore trial, both men and women shoot the elimination and qualification 3×40 rounds. Then the top eight from each shoot in a final. Over the two-day event each athlete accumulates a score.

The scores from this competition are then added to scores from the second phase taking place in March 2020. Whoever comes out on top with the highest score will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Summer Games.

The process is the same for the air rifle disciplines except the dates and location differ. The 10m air rifle trials are taking place early December 2019 and the second part in February 2020 at the Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs.

Olympic Trials Part 1

The first small-bore trial has already taken place earlier this year in September at the range in Fort Benning, Georgia with great success. Ginny Thrasher is currently leading the way for the women’s rifle 3×40 competition. Although only finishing fourth in the finals, Thrasher’s two-day total of 2345 took her to the top of the leaderboard. Ginny will be hoping to shoot in both the 50m 3P rifle women’s event as well as defend her 2016 Olympic Gold medal in the 10m air rifle discipline.

Rachel Garner is currently in second place with a score of 2342 and Mary Tucker claimed third.

In the men’s events, Timothy Sherry won the final of the men’s 3×40 rifle competition to secure his top position with a two-day total of 2359.

Patrick Sunderman, who placed fifth in the finals, moved into second place with a score of 2349. And lastly, junior competitor Peter Fiori finished in third just five points behind Sunderman.

Currently the US shooting team are training for the next set of Olympic trials with Coach Dan bringing rifles to test ELEY tenex to find that winning combination. After that, the next big event for the team will be the Tokyo trials.

Dan Durben officially joined USA Shooting in the role of national rifle coach in February this year, but he’s no stranger to coaching. In the late 90’s early 00’s Dan coached both the Olympic and Paralympic US teams. He also served as the director of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, Three-Position Air Rifle Summer Camps. It was during Dan’s time here that he met a lot of the current rifle team. So it was a natural transition for Dan to return as National Rifle Coach. He’s now more determined than ever to get his rifle shooters to the top of the Olympic podium.

Keep up to date with all the latest news from USA Shooting and results from the Olympic Trials on the USA Shooting website.