Amanda Furrer doesn’t think much of her competition on the shooting range.
“I can’t think about them at all,” said the 21-year-old hotshot from Spokane. “They’re all world-class, but when I’m on the line, my job is to convince myself I’m the best.”
She ventured into the extreme limits of that mentality last week to win the U.S. Olympic Trials in the .22-caliber rifle events. It was scary but familiar territory.
Furrer was 11 when she started shooting with the Spokane Junior Rifle Club. By 16, competitive shooting had taken her to six countries and she held six national junior records. In 2007 she won bronze at the Pan Am Games in Brazil.
In 2008, she won gold in the U.S. Junior Olympics. She gave up prom and other Mead High School activities that year to shoot her way to third best at the Olympic trials. She was an alternate for the women’s team that went to Beijing.
But all that success was about to be as meaningless as the brass littering the range floor last week at Fort Benning, Ga. At stake was one remaining rifle berth to the 2012 Olympics.
After gaining a good lead going into the third and last day of the trials, Furrer started the three-position perfect in prone but faltered at the standing position and fell behind.
“I thought I’d blown it,” she recalled Wednesday.
She fought off tears and met with her dad, Mike, who’s been all or part of her coaching staff from Day 1.
“We looked for the positive,” she said. “We talked about the 2007 Pan Am Games and how I made a comeback in the kneeling position for a medal.
“I returned to the range determined to do what I knew I could do and not settling for anything but great shots.
“I flooded my head with positive self-talk. I was praying, too, asking Him to keep me calm. I picked up my rifle, visualizing what it takes to shoot a perfect 10. I know what it looks like and burned it into my head.”
It worked. Furrer, who describes herself on Twitter as “a girl of God, guns and glitter,” is one of two women who will be shooting .22s for the USA in London.
She had taken off spring quarter from Ohio State University, where she has shooting and academic scholarships in her pursuit of a business degree.
OSU helped her hone skills in NCAA competitions held indoors on 50-foot ranges. This year she phased into more international competitions, tuning in to the 50-meter outdoor ranges used in Olympic competition.
“I’ve been at the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs, where they have great facilities, nothing but good food and you’re surrounded by top-level staff and inspiring people,” she said.
After a three-day home visit where the euphoria of making the Olympics has had a chance to catch up to her, Furrer leaves Spokane on Friday for final preparations:
First she’ll train in Germany, returning June 23 to the U.S. The Shooting Team will train in Copenhagen before and after the July 27 Olympic opening ceremonies because of the shortage of range time in London.
Furrer will return to London for competition on Aug. 4, when she’ll get 60 shots, 20 in each position, to prove herself.
Until then, she’ll be at the shooting range three to six hours a day. She’ll be working on cardio and weights four or five days a week.
She thinks of her body as a foundation for her rifle. “You want to maintain the same figure because you don’t want things to change. The stronger your core and more fit you are, the better you’ll settle into a good position,” she said.
“I went into the trials in full confidence, knowing I’d done everything I could to prepare,” she said. “That’s the way I want to go into the Olympic Games.
She even turned to Hollywood for inspiration:
“I relaxed with sports movies like ‘Miracle on Ice,’ which has great motivational speeches to help me immerse in the atmosphere of the Olympics.”
Furrer chuckles when she thinks back to her junior year in high school and her effort to make the Beijing Olympics.
“I’d traveled the world and had a lot of success and I thought I was grown up,” she said. “But I’ve grown so much more in four years at Ohio State as a shooter and a person. I know who I am and what I like and what I need to do for my sport and for myself. Having that image of who I am has helped me in my shooting and in life in general.
“I don’t need to wait around for somebody to tell me I’m good.”
Contact Rich Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org.