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News | Sept. 10, 2015

Sanderson second Soldier named to U.S. Olympic Team

By Tim Hipps U.S. Army Installation Management Command

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 2, 2015) – Rapid-fire pistol shooter Staff Sgt. Keith Sanderson is the second Soldier from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program to be named to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.  

Sanderson, 40, a native of San Antonio stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, secured his early nomination by meeting three criteria: a minimum qualification score; an Olympic quota spot for Team USA; and a qualifying number of points on the 2015 World Championship and World Cup circuits.  

He joins WCAP Spc. Nathan Schrimsher, who recently earned his berth into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in men’s Modern Pentathlon at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.   “The past several weeks, it’s started to hit me a little bit more,” said Schrimsher, 23, a native of Roswell, New Mexico.

“A lot of people are telling me that now I can relax because I don’t have the pressure of qualifying anymore. But now the pressure to compete, and go win that gold, that’s on.   “It’s another set of pressure, but I’m ready for it.”  

A different kind of pressure awaits former Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, who will compete with three-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons to be named to Team USA after the men’s prone rifle showdown at the World Cup season finale in Munich, Germany.  

“Really, there will be nothing more entertaining in our sport than to watch these two great competitors battle it out for an Olympic opportunity,” said former WCAP rifle coach Dave Johnson, a retired Soldier and Director of Operations for USA Shooting.

“Certainly, it’s not as fun for them as it will be for us, but anytime you get to watch the very best compete with so much on the line, it is something special. This is a result of two people who know what it takes to perform at the highest level and doing all they can to put themselves in spots just like this.”   

Sanderson’s breakthrough moment also came at an earlier World Cup stop in Munich, where he won a three-way shoot-off for the silver medal. Sanderson then sealed his nomination in mid-August with a sixth-place finish at the World Cup finale for pistol and shotgun shooting in Qabala, Azerbaijan.

“It was pretty stressful because that was my Olympic Trials,” said Sanderson, who knew by making the final at Azerbaijan that he would secure the berth. “I’ve been talking about it for a couple months. The goal was to make the team on points. There are the ones along for the ride, and those who are there for the medal. I wanted to part of that special club that made it on points.”

Securing an early nomination will make Sanderson’s Olympic year a lot less stressful. “It allows me to plan out my training year to do my best at the Olympic Games instead of at the Olympic Trials,” he said.

Sanderson plans to compete in three World Cup events next year against may of the same shooters who will compete in Rio with his “focus on the actual mission, which is to medal at the Olympics.”

“That should set me up for best success in Rio,” he said. “I want to be the best U.S. pistol shooter in history. I already have the most World Cups. The only thing I’m missing is that Olympic gold medal.”

As for Schrimsher, on the verge of making his Olympic debut, it’s business as usual. “I just want to go and compete and do the best I can,” Schrimsher said. “I just feel like regular old Nathan from New Mexico, just doing my thing. I’m going to give it my best like I’ve always done.”