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Athlete Feature: Michael McPhail With a Good Dog & Rifl e, McPhail Cannot Lose As a shooter, Michael


McPhail has all the qualities of a good bird dog: instinct, aggression, confi dence, in- telligence, trainability and good lineage. It’s an easy comparison


to make given McPhail’s love of training quality bird dogs born from a hunting pedigree dating back to the start of his teenage years. It is then that Ed Weigel would introduce McPhail, born and raised in Darlington, Wiscon- sin, to both rifl e and hunting, starting a love affair with both that hasn’t been tem- pered since. Today, McPhail the rifl e-


man is much different than McPhail the hunter. Rifl e is his job; one he’s particularly good at having earned eight medals in international com- petition including bronze in September in 300m Prone Rifl e. Hunting is his passion. For now, both take on equal levels of obsession. The 2012 Olympian rec-


ognizes he’s at the prime of his career as a rifl eman, with the window short to retrieve the medals he so desires. As he primes himself for an- other Olympic opportunity in 2016, there’s an edge to him born out of one thing— winning. “Winning is very fun,”


McPhail states when asked about what fun he derives from his shooting career. “The process and training and all of that, I wouldn’t say it is fun. It is long days


and they are hard. You’re leaving a part of yourself out there. The fun part for me is winning and I’ll tell you one thing – I’ve never had any pain, any doubt when I was standing on the podium. You feel none of that pain on the podium.” Flushing opportunity,


that’s been the easy part. Seizing it, is another thing altogether. As a competi- tive shooter, you prepare yourself for days like August 3, 2012, when a millimeter was all that stood between him and an Olympic fi nal. Shooting 39 bullseyes over the course of 60 shots still left him tied with nine other competitors for fi ve spots in the Finals. With a fi ve-shot shootoff , McPhail thought he was in great shape; av- eraging a 10.26 throughout and never straying outside the 10-ring on any of the fi ve shots. But his Finals dream would be undone that day by three-tenths of a point. Three-tenths short haunt-


ed him again in September at the World Championship, falling that much short of the desired goal of shooting in the 50m Prone Finals and more importantly, earning the top-fi ve ranking it would take to earn an Olympic quota.


Aside from a good up-


bringing and a strong will to win, Staff Sergeant McPhail credits the Army Marksman- ship Unit for bringing out the best in him.


“The Army has calmed


me down a little bit and let me look at things a differ- ent way,” McPhail admits. “I have a tendency to let my emotions take over at times, so being with the Army puts me around people who are winners and I don’t think that can be taken too lightly. The fi rst two years I got here, I shot between [Tom] Tamas, [Mike] Anti, [Jason] Parker and [Eric} Uptagrafft… You’re around people that know how to win, know how to train and if you don’t you can at least emulate that.” If, as some suggest,


McPhail is like an onion, then there’s still only three things in his life capable of peeling back those layers: his wife, Kari; his daughter, Addison, and a French Brit- tany named Jasmine, his lat- est hunting companion. When talking about four-


year-old Addison, he beams. “She means everything. She’s the only one that can break me. She provides the perspective I need now in


my career. If I didn’t shoot particularly well one day, she doesn’t care. She’s just glad I’m home.” When talking about his


wife of 10 years, he’s thank- ful. “She kicks me in the ass when needed. She’s my counter-balance.” When asked to describe


McPhail, his former team- mate and now coach Sgt. Parker, says it simply. “He’s a lead by example type of guy. He is an extremely in- tense competitor in every- thing he does. Whether it is match day or practice, he shows up with a very intense focus and carries it through to the end. He’s the fi rst per- son to show up to the range for training, and you can count on it to be highly orga- nized, effi cient and focused on a specifi c aspect of his performance.” Intense, effi cient, focused


and ready to grab the prize when opportunity strikes. Yes, all the qualities of a good bird dog.


Year in Review 2014 | USA Shooting News


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