By Evan Crane
University of Kentucky rifle star and Kinesiology major Mary Tucker has her Olympic medal as she along with USA Shooting star Lucas Kozeniesky earned silver in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics mixed air rifle competition. Fellow UK star Will Shaner placed sixth overall with teammate Alison Marie Weisz.
Tucker/Kozeniesky finished seventh in the first stage of qualifying to earn one of eight spots in the second stage. The duo then advanced to the gold medal match by 0.5 points to square off against Yang/Yang from China. In the gold medal match, Yang/Yang outlasted the USA duo 17-13, giving Tucker/Kozenisky the silver medal. Shaner/Weisz finished fifth in stage one to advance to stage two, where they placed sixth overall just missing out on the bronze medal match.
This is the second medal of these Olympic games for a current member of the UK rifle team as Shaner won gold in the men’s air rifle Sunday. Tucker, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology in the UK College of Education from Sarasota, Florida, made her Olympic debut on day one of the games, finishing sixth overall in the women’s air rifle final. Shaner’s event schedule is now complete while Tucker will compete in the women’s three-position smallbore on July 31. Earlier this year, the native of Sarasota, Florida, became the first Kentucky rifle athlete to qualify for the Olympics in both smallbore and air rifle.
The 2020-21 season has been a banner year for Tucker, who most recently shined at the USA Shooting Junior Olympic Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May. Tucker won gold in smallbore and finished fifth in air rifle at the event. Earlier this year, Tucker led the Wildcats to their third national championship posting the highest ever team score in the modern format at the NCAA Rifle Championships. The national championship capped an impressive season for the Wildcats that included a new school-record team score and a share of the Great America Rifle Conference Regular-Season Championship.
Tucker’s trophy case continued to grow after she won the International Shooting Sport Federation Women’s Air Rifle 10m Gold Medal in April. That win was on top of her earning the most outstanding performer honor at the NCAA Championships in March. The sophomore took home every top crown possible at the championships, winning smallbore individual gold, air rifle individual gold and the overall crown.
Tucker was tabbed the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Athlete of the Year for the second straight season this year. She also earned three top honors from the CRCA as an aggregate, smallbore and air rifle first-team All-America honoree. This is the second straight season she has earned first-team All-America honors from the CRCA.
During her sophomore season with the Wildcats, Tucker averaged 592.417 in smallbore and 597.75 in air rifle this season for an aggregate average of 1190.167. Tucker had the highest individual smallbore score in the nation this season of 597, while she was the only athlete in the nation to score 595 or higher in smallbore multiple times. In air rifle, Tucker was one of three athletes to post a perfect 600. Overall, Tucker scored a 1195 aggregate twice this season, which was the highest combined score in the nation.
In his final tune up before heading to Tokyo for the Olympics in late June, Shaner performed flawlessly at the ISSF World Cup in Croatia, winning the gold medal in men’s air rifle 10 meters. Shaner led from start to finish at the event, finishing with 250.5 points. The event took place at Pampas Shooting Range. Shaner also shined at the 2021 National Junior Olympic Championships, winning gold in smallbore and silver in air rifle.
Earlier this year, Shaner led the Wildcats to their third national championship posting the highest ever team score in the modern format at the NCAA Rifle Championships. The national championship capped an impressive season for the Wildcats that included a new school-record team score and a share of the Great America Rifle Conference Regular-Season Championship.
Shaner earned first-team All-America honors this past season from the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association for aggregate, smallbore and air rifle. It was the third straight season the CRCA has honored Shaner as an All-American after he was first-team All-America last season and earned CRCA Rookie of the Year and All-America honors as a freshman.
Shaner had strong averages in both disciplines this season, earning a 589.25 in smallbore and 595.667 in air rifle for an aggregate average of 1184.917. Shaner finished second in air rifle at the NCAA Championships last week. Shaner was one of three athletes in the nation to score a 595 or higher in smallbore this season. In air rifle, Shaner was one of five athletes in the nation to post a 599 or higher in air rifle. Shaner scored 1190 or higher aggregates twice this season and was one of three athletes in the nation to accomplish that feat more multiple times.
Former Wildcat Henrik Larsen competed for Norway in the mixed air rifle event, finishing with the 10th. In his only season in Lexington, Larsen won the individual air rifle national title at the 2018 NCAA Championships and led the Wildcats to the their second national championship. Throughout the season, Larsen posted the highest aggregate score of any Wildcat in every match. In his lone year in Lexington he set school records across the board in smallbore, aggregate, and air rifle and was named a first team All-American in all three disciplines.
Read more on all 22 Wildcats competing in the Olympics here.