Men With the Golden Guns

Glenn Eller and Vincent Hancock had the Midas touch in leading U.S. marksmen to an impressive haul of six medals—and a windfall at home
August 24, 2008

FORGET THEmillions that Michael Phelps will make from wearing a certain watch, playing aparticular video game or munching a marketable energy bar. Never mind the extrazero on the end of Kobe's shoe contract after these Games. And so what if UsainBolt's appearance fee now includes two cars and a small island for every 10seconds of sprinting. Glenn Eller is going to be a homeowner. Eller's goldmedal in double trap last week was among the six medals won in Beijing byeagle-eyed U.S. marksmen, who hadn't shot this well at an Olympics since1984.

It may soundexcessively mercenary to measure Olympic success by dollar signs, but theperformance bonuses for the successful sharpshooters arguably rewarded athleteswho could most use the benefits. Before the Games, USA Shooting set up a uniqueincentive plan which increased the rewards for individual medals by a factor ofhow many medals the team won. Because the team hit its maximum projected haulof six, the spoils were large for athletes who must generally hold down regularjobs that still allow them time for extensive practice sessions. "One ofthe things we identified that could make us better was teamwork, getting goodvibes," said Matt Emmons, a silver medalist in the 50-meter prone. "Weset it up so everyone would pull for each other."

It's easy to pullfor Eller, a 26-year-old Army specialist at Fort Benning, Ga., who earns $800per biweekly paycheck. He picked up an $80,000 bonus from USA Shooting for hisgold and $25,000 from the USOC, which he says will allow him to move out of thespare room he rents from a friend and into his first house. "I have no ideawhat I'm going to do with the rest," says Eller, who failed to win a medalat his previous two Olympics. "I never thought I'd see this much. I didn'tknow everyone would do so well."

Another goldmedal winner, in skeet, was Vincent Hancock, the precocious 19-year-oldprivate, first class, who is also stationed at Fort Benning. Named worldshooter of the year at 16, Hancock is also known for his habit of pacingbetween rounds rather than seeking the meditative calm favored by mostshooters. Kim Rhode, 29, a veterinary student from El Monte, Calif., had wonthree Olympic medals in double trap, but when the women's event was eliminatedthis year, she switched to women's skeet and won a silver. Jason Turner, 33,from Rochester, N.Y., won a bronze in 10-meter air pistol after North Korea'sKim Jong Su, the original third-place finisher, failed a doping test. CoreyCogdell, a 21-year-old Alaskan hunter who began shooting in nationalcompetitions only two years ago, took bronze in the women's trap.

All will sharethe riches with Eller, whose father, Butch, watched the 1996 Atlanta Games withhim from the stands and told him he would win the Olympics someday, even ifthere was no money to be made at it. Half of his prediction was on target.

PHOTONIC BOTHMA/EPAFIRED UP Hancock (top) and Eller, both Army marksmen, won skeet and double trap, respectively. PHOTOOLIVER WEIKEN/EPA[See caption above]

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)