London 2012 Olympics: Vincent Hancock wins gold again in skeet

July 31, 2012

LONDON – As Vincent Hancock stoically moved through the stations, his focus remained narrow. The 23-year old American was almost robotic in the way he attacked the skeet shooting competition. All that existed was the line that extended from his shotgun to the target.

“I’m used to that look,” said his wife, Rebekah. “At home, we call it his TV face. When he gets involved in the TV, he’s in the zone. There’s nothing else going on around him.”

For Hancock, the reward is gold, but that’s not necessarily the goal. The skilled shooter aims much higher: perfection. He came pretty close to that Tuesday, hitting 148 out of 150 targets in the men’s skeet competition, becoming the first Olympian to win back-to-back gold medals in the event.

Still, he said, 150 would’ve been nice.

“All I know is I want to be perfect every time,” Hancock said. “It’s just something inside of me. I’m a competitor through and through. … My wife gets onto me all the time. Even if we’re playing tic-tac-toe, I will get competitive about it.”

Hancock is a sergeant with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, stationed in Fort Benning, Ga. At 19, he was a prodigy of sorts in Beijing. Four years later, he’s accomplished something no shooter before him ever could, defending his gold in record fashion.

Two days after American Kim Rhode won the women’s skeet competition, Hancock broke his own Olympic mark by hitting 123 of 125 targets in qualifying. He then hit all 25 in the finals, finishing with two-clay advantage over silver medalist Anders Golding of Denmark.

“I try to better myself every single time,” Hancock said. “I think that’s where the perfectionism comes into play. In my sport, you almost have to be perfect in order to win a medal.”

So much has changed for Hancock since Beijing. He is married now and has two children. He’s endured setbacks in his sport but still knew he carried his target into this competition. The expectations are both external, he says, and internal.

“I’ve been there before,” he said, “I’ve stood up on the podium, watched the flag being raised, had a medal around my neck. There’s so many emotions that go into that. You never think that you’ll really get to experience it again. You may want to -- you have the expectations to do that -- but you just don’t know.”

For four years, his life was pointed toward defending his gold-medal performance from Beijing. Even as his family grew, his lifestyle adjusted and the international competition improved, Hancock’s aim never wavered.

“When he wants to do something, he’s going to do it,” said his wife. “And he’s going to get it done right.”

In shooting, there’s no running or jumping or anything aerobic really. Still, Hancock is so focused, so intense during competition that he’s inevitably wiped out afterward.

“I know people are alike, wow, shooting isn’t really that much of a physical sport,” he said. “But the mental toll takes a toll on your physical-being as well. … I am putting everything I have into every single shot.”

Hancock was five years younger than any other shooter in the field Tuesday and says he hopes to compete for the U.S. team at least through the 2020 Games. That means he has his sights set on two more gold medals in skeet shooting.

“I have every expectation of coming back and doing better every single time,” he said. “I can already tell you, if you ask me again in four years what you expect to shoot, I’m going to tell you 125 out of 125. That’s just how it goes.”

Though he credits the Army with instilling his sense of discipline, he’s decided to leave the military when his enlistment expires in November to start a shooting academy back home in Georgia. It’s his way to make the sport about more than gold and more than perfection, too.

“The plan so far is just to continue to try to build a legacy,” he said.

Rick Maese is a sports features writer for The Washington Post.
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Medals
Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States 8 19 17 44
China 10 11 7 41
Russia 2 11 3 35
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