By Michael Molinaro
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit
LONDON, July 29, 2012 – In front of an enthusiastic crowd eager to witness presentation of the first medals of the London Olympic Games, Jamie Gray, wife of a U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit soldier, competed in women’s 10-meter air rifle yesterday at the Royal Artillery Barracks here.
Gray, a two-time Olympian, finished fifth after making the final in the event for her second consecutive Olympics. She shot a qualification score of 397, followed with a final round of 102.7 for an overall score of 499.7, a little more than three points behind China’s Siling Yi, who prevailed with 502.9 points.
Sylwia Bogacka of Poland won the silver medal with 502.2 points, and was followed by bronze medalist Dan Yu of China with 501.5.
“Personally, I think I shot 39 great shots,” said Gray, who finished fourth in air rifle at the Beijing Games. “You can’t ask for more than that. I knew I had to have a great final to have a chance. Bottom line is you can’t win a medal with a 397. It’s not good enough at the Olympics.”
The day was a roller coaster of sorts for Gray, who is married to Army Staff Sgt. Hank Gray. After an equipment problem had her scurrying for tools and a quick fix, she started with a perfect 100 before shooting a 99 and a 98. Two of the three dropped shots were 9.9s, meaning she missed two more 10s by mere millimeters.
On the outside looking in with 10 shots to go, Gray nailed all 10 in the center ring, putting her into a five-woman shoot-off for the four remaining spots in the eight-person finale.
Among those in the shoot-off were U.S. teammate Sarah Scherer and good friend Katerina Emmons, the 2008 Beijing gold medalist in the event, who hails from the Czech Republic. All three women made the final.
“Of course, I was pulling for all three of us to make it,” Gray said. “At the same time, my focus was on my own shooting, so I couldn’t worry about what they were doing.”
Heading into the final, Gray, a native of Lebanon, Pa., was in sixth place, but only one point out of medal contention. After the first three shots, she found herself in eighth place along with an old back problem that started to flare up. Similar to the qualification round, she forged ahead and clawed back into contention with a solid string of shots, but time ran out on her quest for a medal.
“She’s always been a fighter,” said Maj. Dave Johnson, the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and USA Shooting rifle coach. “We’ve had her on the team since she was 16. She exhibited that toughness back then and still does.”
Europe is known as the home of shooting, and the local competitors did not disappoint. The atmosphere was more fitting for an NCAA Final Four game, as the sold-out crowd made for a scene like no other in shooting sports. Music blared while the finalists prepared for the final round, and spectators from around the globe waved their countries’ flags.
“The crowd was amazing,” Gray said. “We don’t have that outside of a final in our sport in the States. It was awesome. I think it would be awesome if every match was like that.”
Jacques Rogge, the head of the International Olympic Committee, was among those in attendance to watch the event. Yi came into the match heavily favored and came out on top after a competitive back-and-forth competition with Bogacka and fellow countryman.
“I was up since 5 in the morning,” said Yi. “There was a lot of pressure on me. I was quite nervous, but just focused on the competition.”
The mission now for Gray and the coaches is to move on and refocus her attention to her next event, women’s three-position rifle. Gray will have to wait seven days before getting another chance at a medal, which is a blessing in disguise, she said, because of her recurring back pain.
“It’s great to have a break and try to get that under control,” Gray said. “I am excited to get on the range tomorrow and get some range time and get in positions again now that air gun is over.”
Gray just missed a medal in three events during her Olympic career, and despite a bad back, equipment issues or anything else that may disrupt her normal routine, her coach said there is no doubt that she will be game-ready for her next event.
“In Beijing, she just missed a medal and it was painful, but the experience helped her shoot well a couple days later,” Johnson said. “She just got more experience in a final again with this match. I expect her to make another final, and we’ll see what happens.”