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A dream doesn’t just happen. Every year, countless athletes around the world train to make theirs a reality, but a very small percentage ever do. Even of those who arrive at an Olympic stage have less than a 3 percent chance of hearing their national anthem played. But USA Shooting member Vincent Hancock’s pulled it off twice, and he’s looking to do it again after qualifying for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan.
“I started shooting competitively at age 10,” says the World Champion and two-time gold medalist. “My dad shot competitively and so did my older brother. When my brother was 16, he was really into football and girls, and the shooting just kind of stopped for him and dad. My dad continued to coach 4-H as a volunteer shotgun team coach.
“When I was 10, dad got back into shooting a little bit, and he took me to a range in Covington, Georgia. That was the first time I’d ever shot on a skeet field. That became a regular weekend pastime for dad and me, and that’s where it all started.”
At the age of 12, while at a 4-H State Championship shoot, Hancock realized skeet shooting was an Olympic sport. His mind was blown and the direction of his life would change forever.
“I wasn’t old enough to shoot in that particular event at the time” he recalls. “But I shot the discipline for the first time in 2001 and got a 21. I remember thinking it was easy. The next day, I shot a 16. It was terrible. But on the car ride home, I told my dad I wanted to win a gold medal.”
Hancock’s dad worked in construction and wanted to foster his son’s dream. He figured building a skeet field in the family’s backyard was a good idea. It was. As the years went by, his skills grew by leaps and bounds, and he was soon shooting on the world stage.
“In 2008, I was the favorite,” Hancock says. “I was 19 and was shooting really well. I’d won or medaled in about every competition I competed in over a 4-year period. At the end of all final, I was tied with Norway’s Tore Brovold. I won the shoot-off. It was truly an amazing experience.”
Although Hancock won his second World Championship in 2009 and set a couple of world records, it was the beginning of a challenging time. His 2010 was tough and he describes 2011 as even worse. “I had a terrible year. Man, it was awful. I got to the point I didn’t want to shoot anymore. I wasn’t having fun,” Hancock says. “I actually called my wife and told her I was going to quit.”
Off his game and with the pure joy of shooting gone, his career tipped toward retirement. Then, as the great ones often do, he made an incredible comeback. “I realized through talking with my wife and a lot of prayer, I’d never refocused my goals. I realized shooting was my passion, and I began practicing and preparing to make the team going to the Olympics in London in 2012.”
Despite his efforts, he wasn’t expected to win. In fact, the National Team coach at the time told him his shooting career was done. “He basically told me I needed to stop shooting,” Hancock says. “That was hard hear, but I found myself again and ended up winning my second gold medal. It was super sweet.”
Refocused, he began preparing for the 2016 Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But that didn’t happen. “I was number one in the world by a large margin. It was crazy. However, I knew in my mind this wasn’t going to be my year. It was a weird feeling, but it was like God was telling me it wasn’t going to happen—that I needed to learn to accept defeat. Obviously, I didn’t win.”
Afterward, Hancock realized he wasn’t having fun again, and was putting pressure on himself to make it happen, rather than enjoying the process and letting it happen on its own.
“I shot the World Cup finals and got silver. After that event, I took about seven months off. When I got my new Beretta DT11 Black in 2017, I started shooting better than ever. I went from a 28-inch barrel to a 30-inch barrel. My gun’s weight, however, didn’t change because of the carbon-fiber rib on the gun.
“Right now, I’m having fun again. I’m coaching a few great young shooters like Conner Prince and Austen Smith. Conner is one of the top Junior shooters in the world. He recently won the Junior World Cup in Germany. Austen won the same shoot in the women’s division and she recently qualified for the 2020 Olympic team.”
“I used to shoot Federal Gold Medal Grand Paper when I was shooting for the Army Team. When I found out USA Shooting partnered with Federal and I realized I could shoot as many Federal Paper rounds as I need, I was all in. These rounds are superior to anything I’ve ever shot. They break targets harder than any other shell on the market.”
The look, feel and performance of Gold Medal Paper shotshells made them the favorite of the most serious clay target shooters. Now there's an even better option—Gold Medal Grand Paper.