By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
In March 2016, CMP staff members Chance Cover and Elijah Ellis traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to compete in the World Cup Men’s Three-Position Competition. Each have an extensive background in shooting and were eager to compete at the prestigious event.
In college, Cover was a walk-on member of the West Virginia University rifle team from 2009-2013. While there, he was a member of the Academic All-Big 12 At-Large Team, CRCA All-Academic Team and also earned Academic All-Big 12 First Team. Additionally, he helped the rifle team reach NCAA Champion status in 2013 and 2014 and finished in first in the Class A Men’s 50m rifle prone and the Class A Men’s 50m Rifle Three-Positions at the 2013 USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle and Pistol.
Ellis was a member of the University of Kentucky rifle ream from 2011-2015. His past rifle accolades include six state championships, four national championships, five National Records and over 100 wins in local, regional and sectional matches. While at Kentucky, he was an individual qualifier for smallbore at the 2013 NCAA National Championships, Honorable Mention for All-American Air Rifle Team 2012-2013 season, GARC All-Conference Second Team Air Rifle 2014, All-American Second Team Air Rifle 2014 and GARC All-Conference Honorable Mention Air Rifle 2015.
He was also a member of the U.S. National Junior Rifle Team 2012-2013 and competed internationally in Munich, Germany, at the 2013 Bavarian Air Gun Championships. One of his biggest wins came in the summer of 2013 as he received the gold medal for USA in the Czech Republic Olympic Hopefuls Match.
The following paragraphs are journal entries of Elijah’s experiences traveling and competing in the World Cup in Bangkok. He recalls the ups, the downs and the wisdom he gained during his unforgettable trip.
(NOTE: CMP Staff member James Hall also competed in the World Cup event in Bangkok, in the Men’s Free Pistol competition.)
Day 1-2 (March 3-4) – Travel
Let me start off by saying that I am still trying to wrap my mind around what is about to happen. It has been over 2 ½ years since I have represented the United States of America in an international competition, and to be honest, I was not entirely sure it would happen again. However, all of that changed this past January when Chance and I earned the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand.
Both of us have traveled internationally before and realize that long travel can really alter your sleep schedule. In order to counter the 15-hour time difference between Las Vegas (where we were working a week prior) and Bangkok, we decided to forgo sleep the night before we left. Our plan was to gradually change our sleep schedules by picking the times we would sleep on the plane. After departing Las Vegas at 3:30 a.m. we made it to Los Angeles in roughly an hour. After a two-hour layover, we were on our way to Tokyo for our next connection. This was the flight that we decided to get as much sleep as possible. Fortunately, sleeping on this 11-hour flight was a perfect way to pass the time.
Upon arriving in Tokyo, I posted an update to Facebook explaining where I was along the journey. To my surprise, a couple of friends that I shot against in college commented on my status, saying that they finished shooting at the World Cup and were now at the Tokyo airport. After figuring out where we all were, we met up for a few minutes to catch up and talk about the World Cup in Bangkok, as they had already shot their matches and were heading home. Once everything was said, it was time for us to get on the plane to Bangkok.
On our final flight, we knew that we would get into Bangkok around 11:30 that night. That is why we decided not to sleep as much on this flight, as it would allow us to fall asleep at a fairly normal time once we got into Bangkok. Eight hours after leaving Tokyo, we finally made it to Bangkok. The only thing that was left was to go through customs and make our way to the hotel.
Upon exiting the plane, we were greeted by a representative of the Bangkok World Cup. They took us to the proper customs gate and confirmed that we had the correct paperwork needed to bring a firearm into the country. We did have to wait almost an hour in customs in order for the proper authorities to allow us to leave the airport with our rifles – come to find out that they did not have our names on the arrivals list, which led to some confusion.
Once they realized that we were supposed to be there at that time, we were allowed to get onto the shuttle that would take us to the range to drop off our rifles and equipment and take us to the hotel. We finally made it to the hotel around 2:00 a.m., just in time to catch some sleep before an early start the next day.
Day 3 (March 5) – Check-In and Training
After four hours of well needed sleep, we awoke to our first official day in Bangkok. The plan for the day was to check into the competition, go through equipment control and do some training in the afternoon. All-in-all, a pretty standard day, considering our competition was not for another three days.
After eating breakfast with James Hall and my former Kentucky Rifle teammate, Emily Holsopple, we made our way to the range. When we arrived, the Men’s 50 Meter Prone Rifle event was about to start. Walking down the line, I noticed some familiar faces of shooters I had seen/met in the past. Fortunately, I was able to find another former Kentucky Rifle teammate, Henri Junghanel, preparing himself to shoot the competition. After watching the match for some time, Chance and I decided it was time to check-in and go through equipment control.
I can say that one advantage of getting into Bangkok a few days after everyone else was that there was no line for equipment control. We began by having our shooting jackets and pants checked first. Now, both of us have been through equipment checks before and felt that our gear should pass as they were. However, that did not prove to be true this time.
As my shooting pants were being checked for thickness, it was discovered that the waistband was too thick. The officials explained that without a belt, the maximum legal thickness could be 2.5mm. Mine registered a solid 4.0. Granted, my suit is fairly old and therefore was most likely not made for the most current rules. Either way I had to somehow make the waistband thinner before I could be allowed to shoot. The officials were kind enough to provide me with a box cutter so that I might trim the waistband down. Fortunately, the inside of my waistband had a layer of felt material sewn to it. I proceeded to cut the felt out, making sure that I did not cut any of the actual stitching. It came out rather quickly and easily. Once I was finished, I gave my shooting pants back to the officials to be re-checked.
As I was watching them put my pants under the gauge, I suddenly noticed that one official seemed to be scrubbing a portion of the fabric with a towel. As I looked closer, it was clear that she had somehow cut her finger and had accidently bled onto the inside of my shooting pants. While some people would think that what just happened would be pretty gross, I actually thought it was funny and turned to Chance and told him what had just happened. Without missing a beat, Chance replies “It adds character.” When you have been shooting for as long as we have, you realize that little things like this don’t have a big impact, and you laugh about them and move on.
Once the blood was cleaned up, my shooting pants were re-checked and were, to my surprise, still over the legal thickness. I looked over the waistband and saw that there was one more layer of canvas that I might be able to take out. If this didn’t work, I would have to do some major alterations. I proceeded to cut this extra canvas layer in hopes that it would be enough. Upon a third thickness check of my waistband, I passed with flying colors. Removing the canvas layer brought the thickness down to 1.8mm, well below the 2.5mm limit. With the rest of our equipment passing, Chance and I were now ready to get our ID cards and begin training.
After equipment control, Coach Tamas showed Chance and I where to get our pictures taken for our ID cards. Thinking back on it, it would have been a better idea for us to get the ID cards before going through equipment control, because at this point I probably looked like I had been swimming in the pool since the temperature in Bangkok was in the mid-90s with over 90 percent humidity. Anyway, we got our pictures and ID tags and went to watch some friends finish their training session so we could start ours.
Since our match wasn’t for another three days, we had open training, which meant that you can train on any open firing point and do so as you see fit. With that being said, I found an open point and decided that my time would be best spent shooting standing and kneeling. I started out in standing, as my gun was already set up for that position because of equipment control.
My primary goals were to become accustomed to the range conditions and figure out if I needed to make any adjustments to my positions to accommodate for the range. I am a confident standing shooter and quickly became comfortable with the lighting and position of the target in relation to my standing position. Once I felt comfortable, I moved onto kneeling. Once again, my main focus was to become comfortable with my position given the range conditions. I worked through kneeling and finished feeling confident and ready to move on.
I will say that the Bangkok range is notorious for its wind conditions. Thankfully, I have trained in the wind for several years. The majority of the matches I shot growing up were outdoor smallbore matches. Throughout my training session, I was constantly taking note of wind conditions and where particular conditions were taking my shots. This is very important information to know as you go into a match, as it will tell you the best times to shoot during the wind and what to do when the wind changes.
Once training was over, it was time to head back to the hotel and grab some dinner before relaxing and going off to bed.
Day 4 (March 6) – Training Day 2
With the Men’s 50 Meter Three-Position Rifle Competition still two days away, it was time to do a little more training. We began our day by watching the Women’s 50 Meter Three-Position Rifle event. More importantly, we were there to support fellow USA Team members Emily Holsopple, Sarah Beard, Sarah Scherer and Emily Stith. When you are not required to attend to your own matters concerning competition, it is best that you be there to support your teammates in theirs.
After watching their competition, we waited to see who would be the finalists. Proudly, both Sarah Beard and Sarah Scherer made the finals. Chance and I still had some time before our scheduled training time was to begin, so we decided to watch as much of the final as we could. Fortunately, we were able to see the entire kneeling portion of the final before having get ready for our training.
Today’s training was the exact same as the day before, except I chose to shoot only prone and kneeling. My goal in prone was once again to become used to the range and in my position. All went well and I definitely learned a lot more about the wind and how it was affecting my shots. It was now time for kneeling.
As I got into position, I could tell that the previous day’s practice had helped. It was much easier finding my position and settling in. For this training session, my goal was to solidify my position in my mind. I don’t mean physically changing anything, especially right before a competition, but mentally building confidence in my position and understanding at what point I might need to rebuild my position or take breaks. As I was doing this, I did notice I was having some issues in keeping a consistent natural point of aim. I spoke with Coach Jason Parker, and he explained a couple of small techniques that I could do during my shot process that would help with natural point of aim consistency. I found his advice to be very helpful and decided to make it a standard part of my process throughout the competition.
I finished up my training and felt confident moving forward. By this time, the temperature and humidity in Bangkok had gotten to a point that Chance and I felt like it was definitely time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the next day.
Day 5 (March 7) – Official Training
By this time, Chance and I have already had two days of training before our competition. However, today was our “Official Training,” where we were required to shoot on our assigned firing points for up to two hours and forty-five minutes. The plan for today was to shoot all the positions, once again, only to solidify what I already know. The day before a competition is definitely not the time to drastically change things.
I had it set up to where I would begin in standing, move to prone and finish up kneeling so that my equipment would already be ready to go for kneeling the following day. All appeared to be going well in standing, and I decided to quickly move to prone as I did not want to shoot a lot the day before my competition.
While in prone, I felt I really started to figure out the wind and could determine when were the best times for me to shoot as well as know what adjustments I needed to make in case the wind did not cooperate. Again, I did not want to shoot a lot so I transitioned into kneeling. As I was shooting kneeling, I applied what I had just learned in prone and was able to confirm my judgments in regards to the wind. With kneeling looking to be in good shape, I called it a day and decided to pack up my equipment. Thankfully, today was a short day which gave me plenty of time to rest before the competition.
Day 6 (March 8) – Match Day
Today was the day. After a two months of getting myself prepared and still trying to comprehend the fact that I am shooting for the United States at the World Cup in Bangkok, the next two hours and forty-five minutes was all that really mattered. While this was an important match, I had mentally prepared myself to see this as just another 3x40 match and to have fun with it. Yes, I knew I had to have a 1135 in order to get my Minimum Qualifying Score, which would allow me to shoot the U.S. Smallbore Olympic Trials in April, but I knew worrying about the score wouldn’t help anything. My plan was to train to the best of my ability before the competition, go into the match with the intention of giving the best performance that I can and, regardless of the outcome, have fun with it and learn from it.
I’ve been shooting for 12 years, and if I have learned anything it is that you can’t worry about the things you can’t control (i.e. scores and range conditions), and focus on the things you can control, such as your performance. As your performance improves, your scores will soon follow. They won’t always be personal records, but more often than not you will see the scores that you want when you put all that you can into the performance. And, as I just mentioned, regardless of the outcome, have fun with it.
This can sometimes be easier said than done, especially when things don’t turn exactly how we planned, but have fun with the experience of shooting the match and in knowing you did all you could that day. I’ve seen too many shooters tie their personal identities into their shooting, including myself. This is a dangerous road to be on because somewhere along your shooting career rough times will hit, everyone has experienced them, but you can’t let that reflect on you as a person. It normally creates a downward spiral of self-defeat that will take a major toll on you until you learn that life moves on. At the end of the day, we are competing in a sport, and it is just a part of our lives, not all of it. Go out there and have fun with it like you would any other sport or game. Believe me, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing a whole lot more and feel less nervous and more confident about your shooting.
Now back to match day! Coming into the range, I took particular notice in what the wind was doing that morning. I was checking to see if there was a prominent direction and speed that would be an optimal condition to shoot in for the day. After watching the wind for a few minutes, I had a pretty good idea of the condition that I wanted. Going into kneeling, I felt ready and knew what I needed to do.
The wind did what I had expected for the most part as I was shooting kneeling. I did have to wait several times to allow for the right conditions to return so I could shoot, but the wind did as I expected. I finished kneeling a little bit slower than I had originally hoped, but nothing to worry about as I am a fairly quick prone shooter.
I quickly transitioned into prone and found the position and wind condition that I wanted. My first 20 shots in prone, while not stellar, were decent considering the wind conditions. I did have some issues throughout my second 20 shots. The wind became a little tricky, and my position needed to be rebuilt. Prone did not end as I had hoped, and to be honest, I was a bit frustrated with myself. Neither my position nor the wind is an excuse, as I should have been able to regain the position I wanted and read the wind conditions better than I did, but I learned from them and tried to keep my focus pointing forward. There was nothing I could do about kneeling and prone at this point.
Once again, I did take longer in prone than I intended, which meant I did not have an ideal amount of time to shoot sighters plus 40 shots in standing, but you do what you have to in order to make it work that day. I knew what I had to do, and it was just a matter of doing it. The wind had picked up a bit by this time and had tendencies to switch back and forth.
Standing started out fairly challenging, but I felt that I was making better decisions throughout my second and third series of 10 shots. When it came time for my last 10 shots, I had put some pressure on myself, as I had less than 10 minutes for those shots. I made the most I could out of them, considering the wind and time constraint. Some shots did get away from me, but that’s the way it went that day. Just another thing to learn, as far as time management goes.
At the end of the day, I did not have the score that I had hoped for and missed the Minimum Qualifying Score. While I was disappointed that I didn’t get the score and a bit frustrated with some of the decisions that I made during the match, I knew they were things that I needed to learn and put towards the next competition.
Reflecting back on the match and my time in Bangkok, I had a blast! It was an awesome experience and one that I am very thankful for. Even after shooting for several years, I have never stopped learning. The way we learn from our mistakes may be hard, but I believe it makes us better in the long run. It all depends on how we look at it and what we want to take from our experience. I did not have a good match in terms of score, however, I know that I did all that I could that day. Some of my decisions were not the best ones, but I learned from those mistakes.
I might not have left Bangkok with my MQS, but I did take back a much better understanding of things I need to work on. Through it all, I had fun competing in my sport at the World Cup. and I will be a better shooter because of my time in Bangkok.
Day 7 (March 9) – Travel Day
With our flights back to the U.S. departing early on the 9th, and with Coach Thomas Tamas telling us that the van was leaving at 3:00 a.m., we felt that eating dinner a little bit earlier and heading to bed was probably in our best interest. With the majority of Team USA already on their way home, the only ones left in Bangkok were myself, Chance, Matthew Emmons and Thomas Tamas. Due to the match being rescheduled the week prior, the Men’s Three-Position event was shot the day after it was originally intended, which meant Chance and I had to move out of our room, as our reservation had ended the day before. Fortunately, I was able to move in with Tamas, and Chance moved in with Emmons for the final night.
On the morning of the 9th, my alarm went off way too early! Pulling myself out of bed at 2 a.m. might have been the hardest thing to do on our trip. However, we got ourselves together and made our way downstairs to meet the van that would take us to the range so we could pick up our rifles and shooting equipment. Upon picking up our shooting equipment and making our way to the airport, the Bangkok shooting staff was gracious enough to show us where to take our rifle to be checked-in, as well as to where we need to fill out the proper paperwork. Having traveled overseas before, I had a bit of an idea as to how taking rifles outside of a country can be a somewhat tedious task. Depending on the laws of the country that you’re in, the process can take just a few minutes to a few hours.
After checking-in at the front desk, we were taken to a side room to have our rifles inspected. This was nothing out of the ordinary, as it is just to ensure that the rifle serial numbers match the form they have on file. However, this time airport security wanted me to fill out some additional paperwork.
Since the rifles were going to be in my name, they took me to a room where two Thai airport security workers were seated. I was seated behind a metal desk just across from them. The desk was covered in folders and papers, and I noticed that there were a multitude of pictures depicting firearms and explosives posted on the wall behind the security workers. The one gentleman sitting directly across from me had his sleeves rolled up and was intently reading the papers in front of him. The other gentleman was casually flipping through his stack of papers. I felt like I was in some crime scene investigation show, and this was some sort of bad cop/good cop routine.
After several minutes of the two men talking to themselves in their native language, the man sitting in front handed me a piece of paper and pointed to a line that said “Signature.” I could not read the rest of the document, as it was written in Thai. He showed me a couple more places that required my signature and initials. I figured this form was stating that I was aware that I was exporting firearms and agree to the legal implications.
After I signed the forms, the man with the rolled-up sleeves motioned to another sheet of paper and looked as if he was trying to ask if I had a particular document. At first, I could not understand what he was saying and fortunately a woman who also worked security came over and was able to translate for us. She explained that the man needed an official export form. Fortunately, we were notified that we would need this form before we left the U.S., and I had packed it in my bag for this occasion. I gave the forms to the man in front of me, and after having made copies of them, he motioned that we were all set to go.
Now that everything was checked-in and ready to go, it was time to make our way through security and go to our gate. We still had a couple hours before our flight to Tokyo left, which gave us just enough time to relax for a little while.
The six-hour flight to Tokyo did not seem all that long. I ended up watching a couple of movies along the way to keep myself occupied. I did not really try to sleep that much on the way back. I figured if I fell asleep, then so be it, but if I didn’t, it was no big deal. We landed in Tokyo and had to go through security again, as it was an international flight. Once again, we had about two hours before our flight to Los Angeles took off, which meant it was time to find some food. Having eaten mostly Asian food for a week, I wanted something a little bit more American. Thankfully, I found a McDonald’s. I remember thinking you can’t get much more American than that! We got our food and waited for our flight number to be called so we could board.
It was now time for our nine-hour flight to LA. Even on this flight, I did not sleep much at all. I think I watched four different movies along the way. I started to run out of options for new things to watch. I did manage to fall asleep for almost 45 minutes before we landed. Upon touching down in L.A., Chance and I would have to go to baggage claim to pick up our shooting equipment, go through customs, then check our bags again. After waiting for several minutes as TSA was unloading all of the luggage and helping passengers receive their bags, we finally saw our bags and rifle case. At this point, we were able to take our bags to the next check-in counter and send them on their way.
However, our rifle case had to be inspected again before it could go. This meant that we would have to take our rifles to the back room so a Customs and Border Patrol agent could open the case and verify that our serial numbers matched the numbers on our firearm import forms. As we were doing this, another CBP agent was checking the bags of two Asian farmers. Normally, I wouldn’t pay this close attention to someone else’s business, but I couldn’t help but notice that these farmers’ bags were filled with what looked like pounds and pounds of some kind of root. I never figured out what it was, but it made the room smell very pungent, and the CBP agent wouldn’t allow the farmers’ bags to pass through. After watching all of this, the CBP agent taking care of us was finished checking our rifles and said we were good to go. By this time, we had just over an hour before we had to get on the plane to Las Vegas.
The flight to Vegas was very short, not even a full hour. However, once we were in Vegas, we had a six-hour layover before our next flight took us to Miami, and finally Atlanta. On top of the layover, our flight to Miami and Atlanta was different than what we had previously been on. This made it to where we had to pick up our bags in baggage claim and check everything in again. We managed to make it through all of it relatively easily and go through security ourselves for the fourth time that day. Once we were inside the terminal, it was definitely time to get some food and sleep until our flight took off.
Our flight to Miami left Vegas at midnight – perfect timing to continue sleeping on the plane. I don’t remember much of that flight, as I was out for most of it. We landed in Miami with a two-hour layover before leaving for Atlanta. We made our way to the appropriate gate and waited until it was time to go. Fortunately, the flight to Atlanta would be short, which meant we would be home very soon.
Thankfully when we got to Atlanta, both of our rifles and equipment had made it as well. It was planned out that James Hall would pick me and Chance up from the airport and take us back to Anniston. All went according to plan, and we made it back in the early afternoon on Thursday, March 10.
Personally, I was very tired and glad to be home, but I was very thankful for the trip to Bangkok. While shooting could have gone differently, I did learn a lot during my time in Thailand. I believe that what I learned in Bangkok will greatly help me in my shooting career, as well as allow me to better help junior shooters who are looking to go on these kinds of shooting trips.
Regardless of the scores at these types of competitions, the experience gained is priceless. And it is for that reason that I am extremely grateful to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for not only allowing me to go and compete, but for also funding a very large portion of my trip. I also cannot thank USA Shooting enough for giving me the opportunity to shoot for the United States, as well as helping to fund the trip. To all of those involved in making this dream happen and for supporting me along the way, I want to personally thank each of you. It would not have been possible without you!