Gray Gets the Gold: First CSU-Affiliated Olympian Shines in London
he situation felt all too familiar for Jamie Gray, Columbus State’s assistant rifle coach.
As in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Gray needed a near-perfect performance on the final shot in the 50-meter three-position event to earn a medal. But this time, in London, she delivered. Gray, 28, became on Aug. 4 the first-ever Olympic medalist affiliated with the university when she finished first in the women’s 50-meter three-position event at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, winning a gold medal and setting two Olympic records.
Jonathan Hall, a senior business major and former national air rifle champion at CSU, also competed in the London Olympics, finishing ahead of his U.S. colleagues in the qualification round of the men’s 10-meter air rifle — but not good enough to advance to the finals. Like Gray, he’s now focused on competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I am more humble for the experience and more determined for the future,” Hall wrote after being eliminated in London. “For me, practice for 2016 starts now.”
Gray was still reveling in her London win less than a week later, when hundreds of her Columbus State colleagues greeted her with a standing ovation at a welcome back event for faculty and staff.
“I don’t think words can describe what it feels like standing up there, hearing your national anthem being played, seeing your flag being raised,” Gray said, recalling the medal ceremony in London. “All emotions rolled into one. All you can think about is all the people who helped you get there.”
Gray is quick to acknowledge the support she received.
“It’s not just my medal,” she said. “It’s the USA, it’s my parents, my husband, my family and friends, the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (at Fort Benning, where her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Hank Gray, works) where I’ve been training, Columbus State which supports me so much, my community back in Lebanon, Pa. — all those people.”
Competing in her second Olympics, Gray posted a 592 out of a possible 600 in the qualifying round before shooting a 99.9 in the finals to wind up with a total score of 691.9. It was the first time since 1992 that the United States had won gold in the event, and it’s Gray’s first gold medal.
The previous Olympic record was a 690.3 set by China’s Du Li at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Gray remembers it well. Competing there in the same event, Gray needed a solid score just to earn a bronze. A last-shot mistake cost her as she scored an 8.7 out of a possible 10.9, putting her out of medal consideration in fifth place. She also finished fourth in air rifle at Beijing.“I didn’t want to repeat that experience,” Gray said. “I’ve lived the past four years trying to get through that last shot, and I’ve trained really hard taking that last shot every day of my life. Come the last shot, I was thinking I’m not going to do this again.”
Relaxation and patience helped make the difference in London.
“I said I’m going to run the process, shoot a good shot,” she said. “That’s really what matters. And that’s exactly what I did. I took a little extra time in the process, relaxed a little more and it was a great shot.”
In the finals, Gray had 10 or more points in seven of her 10 shots. Her final round score of 99.9 surpassed seven other opponents.
In the qualification round, Gray also took down a record that has been standing since the 1996 Atlanta Games by posting a 592, which broke the previous Olympic qualification round record of 589 set by Renata Mauer-Rozanska of Poland in 1996 and tied by Du Li of China in 2008.
“I didn’t even know until they announced it on the range because I was so focused on getting into the Olympic finals,” Gray said. “The match isn’t over yet. You still have 10 shots to go, and so many of us forget that. I really just focused on taking those last 10 shots one shot at a time, and that’s really what it takes.”
Starting in the prone position, Gray shot a 98 in series one and then followed with a perfect 100 in the second series. She then separated herself from most of the field by shooting back-to-back 99’s in the standing position
Gray entered the kneeling position needing a perfect score in each of two series to break the world qualification record of 594. Midway through the first 10 shots, Gray was on pace, but two shots went wide, resulting in a 98 in the first series. Gray fired another 98 in the final round, completing her record-breaking performance.
“To be able to take that last shot and have it be a 10.8, I was so ecstatic,” Gray said. “To be able to come back from that, knowing that in my last shot in Beijing I went from third to fifth. And here I was able to shoot that last shot, and it was awesome.”
Gray, who was part of NCAA national rifle championship teams at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 2003, 2004 and 2006, is now looking ahead to coaching this year’s Cougar rifle team, a group of male and female shooters who just may be a little more attentive to her coaching.
“I hope so,” Gray said. “Maybe they’ll listen a little better. I’m just looking forward to a great season for Columbus State University. We have a lot of great freshmen coming in, great returning seniors. We’ll see what the season brings. Hopefully we can go to a national championship. Who knows what will happen?”
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Captions, from top to bottom:
Jamie Gray fires during the Summer Olympics in London, (Photo by Mike Molinaro)
Jamie Gray follows the lead of several other Olympians, mostly at the urging of photographers, in biting her gold medal after it's presented in London. (Photo by Tim Hipps)
Jamie Gray reacts after her record-breaking, gold medal performance in London. (Photo by Mike Molinaro)
Editor's Note: Photographers Mike Molinaro and Tim Hipps are both attached to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning. Focus gratefully acknowledges their invaluable assistance in sharing these photos)