How To Build An Olympian
[su_heading size=”30″]Youth Shooter Phenom Lance Thompson Shoots For The 2020 Summer Games[/su_heading]
Story by Dana Farrell * Photographs by John Thompson
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]F[/su_dropcap]ourteen-year-old Lance Thompson of Carlisle, Pa., has spent the last several years of his life with one goal in mind – competing in the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
As an Olympic trapshooting hopeful and honor student, Thompson maintains an intense, disciplined schedule that includes shooting up to four days a week during the school year and living full time at a training center during the summer. This arrangement allows him to train every day when school’s out. While living at the training center he stays with one of the team members, a 25-year-old female shooter, in an efficiency apartment 100 yards from the range. This summer marks his third season living at the center.
FINDING HIS CALLING
Lance found his calling in a roundabout way when his dad enrolled him in an NRA shotgun class at their local gun club. Although he was only 9 years old at the time, Lance was big for his age and the instructor made an exception. He allowed him to participate in a class that normally required a minimum age of 12. Now, 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, Lance says that even at age 9, he was one of the best shooters in the class. His mother and father, realizing their son had a gift for pointing a shotgun, saw to it that he began training in the sport of Olympic trap at the prestigious Keystone Shooting Park, in Dalmatia, Pa., north of Harrisburg.
“I am not an Olympic trapshooter, so this isn’t ‘Dad’s dream,’” says Lance’s father, John. “I never even knew what Olympic trapshooting was until Lance started shooting it. So it’s not like I’m an old ATA shooter and got my kid involved in this.” The elder Thompson spent 20 years as an elite cycling trainer, so he entered into the Olympic commitment with eyes wide open – he knows what it takes to compete on an international level. In support of his son, John now holds an NRA Level 2 Shotgun Coaching license, and is one of only a handful of International Shooting Sports Federation-certified instructors in the United States – a certification that required a trip to Ireland to attain.
“To do this at the level we’re doing it, it’s all-hands-on-deck. Everything revolves around Lance’s shooting schedule and what he’s got going on. Even though he’s got some really good sponsors, there are obviously still expenses. It’s a 100 percent commitment – you can’t dabble. If you want to become a world champion, you can’t just dip your toe in or just do it on the weekends” says John in regards to what it takes to shoot at Lance’s level.
Both parents lend 100 percent support to their son’s goal of making the Olympic team, with mom Patty usually driving Lance back and forth to Keystone to train several times each week during the school year. “Keystone is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from where we live, so once or twice during the week and both days on the weekends we’re driving to and from – two and half hours in the car, and then spending six or seven hours a day there on the weekends. At least one of us is there, if not both of us,” says Patty. She also accompanies Lance overseas when he competes in Europe – a place where “Olympic Trap is much more a part of the culture than in the US” according to John.
Lance has already shot in Germany, Italy and France, with “the hexagon” probably providing his fondest international shooting memory. “One of the best places I ever shot was in France. I was shooting for the junior division, and I ended up first. I was the youngest junior to ever win the junior division in 32 years.”
OLYMPIC TRAINING REGIMEN
When other students his age are likely home playing video games, Lance works out on a balance board to strengthen his core muscles while passing the time watching TV. On those school nights when he’s not making the trip to Keystone, he’ll mount his gun one hundred times to build muscle memory and strength. Not all of his training is physical, however. He uses Olympic Gold Medalist rifle shooter Lanny Bassham’s Mental Management program for mental training, something he says helps him relax while shooting under pressure, and he uses Vizual Edge two to three times per week, a software program developed by medical professionals to assess and improve one’s visual performance. Lance thinks Vizual Edge helps him track targets and improves his peripheral vision. Shooting coach Allen Chubb is currently helping him find his optimal balance point, so that he’s not leaning too far into the gun, and he’s not being rocked backwards onto his heels upon firing.
INTO THE FUTURE
Last year was a successful one for Lance, having won six gold, three silver and four bronze medals in Olympic-style competitions. His 2016 shooting schedule will take him to Malta and Italy, where he hopes to add to his growing medal collection. At the ripe young age of fourteen, he’s already amassed a long list of sponsors whose support helps defray the cost of his rigorous and expensive training schedule. Among his sponsors are B&P ammunition, Perazzi firearms – Lance shoots a 30-inch-barrel Perazzi MX8 – Pilla eyewear, Giacomo Sporting USA, Eurotarget USA, Salomon footwear and 5.11 Tactical.
What does this highly driven Olympic hopeful do for fun when he’s not training? “For fun I usually shoot sporting clays, because if I shoot any other sports, it throws off my timing for Olympic trap, so it’s hard to transition back.”
Look for Lance Thompson in the 2020 Olympic games. In the meantime, he’ll be hard at work developing the skills needed to earn that coveted spot on the USA Shooting Team. ASJ