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Shooter has goal in his sights


The sight of balloons, miniature American flags and beloved friends and family members welcomed home southern Arizona’s newest Olympian at Tucson International Airport yesterday.

And though Adam Saathoff, 20, of Hereford was glad to be back near home yesterday, he also couldn’t wait to return again to the place he just left – Atlanta, the site of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

“Oh yeah, it’s real exciting,’ said Saathoff, who earned the lone U.S. Olympic berth in running target shooting for the Summer Games by finishing first among U.S. competitors and tied for fifth overall in Sunday’s Atlanta World Cup.

“This has been my long-term goal for four years now,’ Saathoff said. “I just have got one more short-term goal and that’s to shoot pretty well at the Olympics and see what happens. This doesn’t mean I’m able to slack off now though – I don’t want to go there and do horrible.’

Saathoff’s dream will come true in late July, and much of his family will be there to support him as they have at several of his competitions, which have taken him all over the world recently.

“It’s been a long time in coming,’ said Adam’s father, Bill, who helped his son get started in target shooting at a young age and built a running target range to practice on behind their home near Sierra Vista.

“We’ve already rented a house (in Atlanta) and gotten the tickets and everything,’ added Bill Saathoff. “We’re ready to go.’

Saathoff won last year’s national championship, tied for fifth last weekend and has tested himself against the world’s best over the past four years as a member of the U.S. national team.

While he earned the Olympic bid strictly on his performance Sunday, it has actually been more than six years in the making. It came as little surprise to his family that he was able to handle the pressure.

“He’s been kind of the number one shooter for a couple of years now,’ his father said. “We were sure hoping it was going to happen, but with just one berth and two matches that decide it, it’s up for everybody. You just hope the cream of the crop comes up.’

Saathoff, certainly performed well when it counted Sunday, earning 574 of a possible 600 points in a preliminary round and 98 of 109 points in Sunday’s final. Lonn Saunders of Billings, Mont., earned the second-best U.S. finish with a score of 560 in the preliminaries.

While Saathoff maintains he could have shot better, he said he believes he’s also ready for the pressure the Olympics will bring and he likes his chances of receiving a medal.

“I shot a pretty good score (Sunday),’ he said. “I’ve shot better, but it was good enough to win, so that makes me feel good.

“I got fifth in this last World Cup, and all the shooters that shot there are also going to be shooting in the Olympics,’ Saathoff added. “I know I can shoot better, so hopefully I can get up there close (to the top).’

Next month, he will continue to hone his skills at three World Cup competitions in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.

His sport involves scoring the best out of 60 shots at moving targets 10 meters away.

In the 30-shot slow round, the target is visible for just five seconds – leaving the shooter that much time to raise his rifle, mount it on his shoulder and fire toward the bull’s eye before the target disappears behind a wall.

In the fast round, the shooter’s reaction time is cut to 2 1/2 seconds.

Saathoff is the seventh athlete with a southern Arizona tie so far to earn a spot in the Olympics. The others include:

University of Arizona softball player Leah O’Brien; former UA volleyball player Caren Kemner; and four swimmers – UA recruit Trina Jackson, Hillenbrand Aquatics team member Melanie Valerio, former UA star Amy Van Dyken and current UA swimmer Casey Legler, who will compete for her native France.

The Summer Olympics are scheduled for July 19 to Aug. 4 in Atlanta.

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