Army Shooter Is First US Service Member to Win Gold Medal at Tokyo Olympics

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U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Amber English qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games Skeet Event
U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Amber English qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games Skeet Event upon conclusion of the Olympic Trials - Part 2 in Tucson, Arizona March 5-8, 2020. (Michelle Lunato/U.S. Army)

CAMP ASAKA, Japan -- An Army lieutenant became the first U.S. service member to clinch a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics with a first-place finish in women's shotgun skeet on Monday.

First Lt. Amber English, a logistics officer and member of the Army Marksmanship Unit, bested Diana Bacosi of Italy, the 2016 women's skeet gold medalist.

"Amber English wins gold with an Olympic Record of 56 in the women's skeet final after a nail-biting ending," said a tweet on the games' official Twitter account.

English, 31, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., hit 56 of 60 targets at the event, just three off the world record held by Wei Meng of China, who took bronze Monday.

"All I could control was just my own shooting and my own emotions," she told reporters after the win.

Skeet shooting always comes down to the wire, English said, before adding that she had trained hard and was "fortunate to be able to put it together at the right time."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted his congratulations to English on her medal and Olympic record.

"Your country is extremely proud of you today, and I'm so glad you're representing us," he wrote.

Sgt. Phillip Jungman, also of the Army Marksmanship Unit, placed 15th in men's shotgun skeet the same day.

Members of the Army's World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit were in competition Saturday at the Asaka Shooting Range in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo during Olympic competition this week.

Camp Asaka is headquarters of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Eastern Army and the setting for the annual Yama Sakura exercises with U.S. troops.

Top shooters from all over the world are firing at the range, which was built for the 1964 Olympics.

On Saturday, it was a hive of activity with pistol shooters firing indoors and skeet shooters outside blasting clay discs out of the sky.

Army Staff Sgt. Sandra Uptagrafft, 50, spent the morning practicing for the 10-meter pistol competition.

Born in Singapore but raised in London and Los Angles, the medical logistics specialist, whose military career stretches back to 1989 and includes a stint in the Navy, has seen rounds traveling in both directions.

During a deployment to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, where she provided tech support to a Navy Seabee construction unit from 2010-11, Uptagrafft experienced regular enemy rocket attacks.

"It was everywhere and any time," she recalled after her practice session.

The Asaka range has a fair bit in common with bases where troops live and work in places like Afghanistan. It includes dozens of white, prefabricated buildings, Japanese soldiers providing security and old military equipment on display nearby.

As a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Ga., Uptagrafft helped train the trainers charged with making sure infantry are ready to put lead on target in combat.

However, Olympic shooting, where there's plenty of time to line up a shot, isn't in the same ballpark as combat shooting, she said.

The opening ceremony in Japan's National Stadium on Friday night was a buzz, she said.

"The excitement was building the closer we got to the tunnel (to enter the stadium)," she said. "Everyone was yelling 'Go USA,' but it was missing the crowd noise and people in the stands."

Despite the restrictions, the stand at the Asaka air pistol range was packed with reporters, photographers and officials as the first competitors lined up shots.

Among them was Army Staff Sgt. Nick Mowrer, who finished 13th out of 36 shooters with a score of 576, narrowly missing out on the medal round. Mowrer is set to compete next in the men's 50-meter, 3-position rifle event on Aug. 3.

Meanwhile, Uptagrafft also failed to qualify in the 10-meter air pistol on Sunday but still has a chance to medal in a mixed event and at 25-meter range.

Three other members of the marksmanship unit are shooting for gold at the games. They include Spc. Alison Weisz, Spc. Sagen Maddalena, and Sgt. Patrick Sunderman.

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