If you don't want to know the results of Air Riflery -- spoiler alert.
I bring this up, not because I plan to announce the results of every competition, not matter of offbeat -- I don't even remotely -- but because the U.S. won its first Gold Medal of the Games.
Virgina Thrasher, hat's off.
"Air riflery," by the way, is the highfalutin name for BB guns.
I'm additionally please about this being the first Gold Medal because when I was a summer counselor at Camp Nebagamon, I generally was assigned to heading up the air riflery program. It was sort of by default, because I don't suspect many others were interested in taking it on, and I was fine with it. I also wasn't all that great at crafts, so that was out. I did work in the athletics program and probably some others, but air riflery was mostly it. We were across the dirt road from archery.
For inexplicable reasons, I was pretty good at it -- which had nothing to do with why I got assigned to it. (See: most no one else wanted to do it.) I was always okay at regular riflery, though never went terribly high up the rankings, like the real experts. I think I reached Bar 4, out of 10. After which there's Expert and then Distinguished. With air riflery, I reached Expert. But that's a long, odd story. (It centers on having a day off and deciding to put up targets across the whole range and just relentlessly shooting. But it's more convoluted than that.)
To be clear, I never ever cared for shooting for animal sport. Nor ever did it. I liked shooting at targets, not much different than playing darts. That's all I ever did. Targets, seeing how many points I could get.
Air rifley was all the more odd and less problematic than regular riflery with .22 caliber bullets. The air rifles we had were so low in their power that once I did a test and put the barrel up against a blown-up balloon and pulled the trigger. The balloon did not even burst, really, but the BB just bounced off. (I'm certain the distance had a lot to do with that, and if I'd shot the balloon from a few feet away, it would have busted. And clearly, BB guns can be dangerous and cause harm. But still, that gives you an idea of the awesome power of the ones we used.
What made me so proud of my reaching the level of Expert is that, at least with our BB guns -- sorry, air rifles -- is that accuracy was never a strong point. A windy day could impact the direction a BB would go, and even without wind just because you lined the sight up with the target didn't mean it would go straight where you aimed. So, you learned to adjust, depending on the air rifle.
Mind you, I never quite considered shooting with an air rifle to make me an athlete, especially one that could lead to an Olympic career. It was, as I said, a step up from darts, albeit with a slight touch more hand-eye coordination because of the weight of the device and various change of positions (from prone, to sitting, kneeling and standing). But if that's what the Powers That Be have decreed, so be it.
So, again, hat's off to Virginia Thrasher, winner in Air Riflery of this year's first Olympic Gold Medal for the United States.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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