Johnson hopes to mark spot on Olympic team

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2000

WOODVILLE –&160;Bill Johnson of Woodville has had his sights set on the Olympic Games for the past few years. But trouble with the sights on his rifle during a U.S. Running Target Team Selection Match has him trailing in his quest to compete in Australia at the 2000 Olympic Games this summer.

Johnson, a member of the United States National Running Target Team, was recently in Fort Benning, Ga., competing in the 2000 USA Shooting First Olympic Team Selection match.

The match was part of four competitions with the top finisher making the U.S. Olympic team. The top two finishers qualify for two of only 20 spots in the competition.

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After hovering around the top spot most of the competition, Johnson fell to fourth place, 32 points behind the leader because of a problem with his rifle.

&uot;I was in second place on the last day, four points behind the leader when I had gun malfunction,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;The lock side of my scope came loose and the scope was off. I had to take it apart and re-sight it back in. You have all the time you need in the morning to sight your gun in, but there’s no time during the competition. I had four sighted shots at moving targets and they were not good at all. I was trying to make adjustments while the match was going and I was steadily losing points. I finally got it to where it was reasonably right, but I had lost too many points by then.&uot;

Johnson will travel to Atlanta in June for the final two competitions, which will be held at the venue used in the last summer Olympic Games.

Adam Saathoff of Arizona leads the competition with 1242.2 points. Armando Ayala of Fort Benning is second at 1227.4. Lance Dement of Fort Benning is 7.9 points ahead of Johnson at 1217.9. Johnson is sitting at 1210.

&uot;I still have a chance of taking the second spot,&uot; Johnson said. Seventeen spots is a reasonable amount to make up. I’m going to need two good scores.&uot;

The highest possible score a shooter can get is 600, which would mean 60 bulls-eye shots, 10 points apiece. Shooters fire from 10 meters away at bullseye targets moving horizontally for two seconds and five seconds across a track seven feet wide. Competitors cannot raise their rifles above their waist until the target begins moving.

The decimal points come in the final shootings in each competition where points are awarded by the closest to the direct center of the bulls-eye.

&uot;I could probably shoot a 570 or 575,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;The second place guy had a 565, so I could be 10 points above that. To do better, I’ll probably have to shoot two 575s.&uot;

Finishing at the top is nothing new for Johnson. He won the national championship in USA&160;Shooting Running Target competition in 1994 and 1996. He finished second in 1997 and ’98.

In 1996, Johnson walked away with seven gold medals on his way to winning the national title.

Johnson has competed in five World Cups, finishing 31st in Atlanta two years ago.

Johnson became interested in shooting for competition from his hunter’s education teacher, Jackie Withers of Woodville.

&uot;He was trying to develop a team and was looking for hopefuls who were decent shots,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;He told us that anyone interested could go to matches with him. I told him I would like to try it and it started from there.&uot;

Johnson won dozens of trophies as a junior shooter, including when he won the national championship in 1994, turning 15 years old during the competition.

Johnson said he learned to shoot at an early age.

&uot;I do a lot of hunting,&uot; he said. &uot;I started shooting a gun when I was six years old. I had a BB gun and I was chasing stuff around the yard.&uot;

Johnson found his mark in running targets, advancing the nationals at the age of 15, one year after he started training to be a marksman. He won the national championship five years ago.

Johnson, who graduated from Wilkinson County Christian Academy in 1997, finished fifth at nationals last year.

&uot;There wasn’t a gun problem, I had the flu,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;I didn’t have any time to recover. I had a decent score throughout. But I usually finish in the top three.&uot;

Johnson has taken a semester off from Southwest Community College to train. He has 10 hours left to complete his studies and plans on finishing up in Colorado while training for the upcoming competition.

Johnson, who is majoring in business management, said the key to be a good marksman is training.

&uot;It really takes a lot of training and having a coach help watch for mistakes,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s one thing I’m falling behind on because our national coach is at our Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, (Col.). The other coach is in Fort Benning.&uot;

Johnson said he will be disappointed, but not discouraged about not making the Olympic team.

&uot;I’m not in a rush, I still have several more years of eligibility,&uot; he said. &uot;A lot of the guys shooting have been shooting longer than I’ve been living.&uot;