The Road to Rio
An extraordinary, maybe even accidental, talent sharpens her skills, aiming for Air Rifle Gold in the 2016 IPC Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Sometimes it takes a second chance to make the right impression.
It was just such a second chance that allowed, Rome, New York, native Tammy Delano to move to the Olympic Training Center as a resident athlete, win a gold medal at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup in Poland, and earn the right to compete in R2 and R3 for the USA Shooting Team at the IPC World Championships in Suhl, Germany.
Delano got her start in shooting five years ago, as a member of the Sitrin STARS, a disabled sports program in her hometown. One day, Vanessa Ross (NRA’s Manager of Disabled Shooting Services), stopped by to conduct a shooting clinic for the STARS participants.
“I enjoyed it right off the bat, was really good at it, and have been pursuing it ever since,” Delano said. “I was kind of excited—my whole family likes to hunt and fish, and even though it was just air rifle, I just thought it was really cool. I fell in love with it right there.”
Two weeks later, Delano heard about a competition Ross was hosting in Boston. Her interest piqued, Delano, who had to borrow all her equipment, traveled to the competition. Without her own gun or shooting jacket—and not even knowing if she could use a stand or a loader—she finished in second place.
Though success had come early—even immediately—Delano had several things going against the pursuit of her new-found passion. For one, she had no one to coach her and, so, was on her own to learn the game, referring back often to the notes she’d taken during the clinic. More challenging was finding a place to actually shoot; locations were few and far between. Ross eventually referred Delano to National Paralympic Coach Bob Foth to attend another shooting clinic.
“I shouldn’t have gone to it,” she said. “I didn’t realize how sick I was [at the time]. I’d had a heart attack, but it was such an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss it. But because I was so sick, I wasn’t very impressive, and Bob didn’t call me for a while.”
Delano soon acquired a rifle, continuing to practice on her own. But, after three years of going it alone, she reached out again to Foth, asking to attend another clinic and inquiring about participating in the Winter Airgun competition. Foth advised her that it probably wouldn’t be worth it without the kind of shooting jacket the sport generally requires, so she went online and had one overnighted to the Olympic Training Center for the competition.
“Once I had a jacket, my score went up by like 32 points!” Delano laughed, as she recalls those early times on the range with her new gear.
By this time, her shooting organization at home had developed a shooting program where she could train. She went on to compete at the USA Shooting National Championships, in 2013, and that’s when Foth named her to the Developmental Team. In January, she was offered residency. In 2014, Delano competed in the IPSC World Shooting Championships in Suhl, Germany. Today she competes in both air rifle prone and standing events as part of the USA Shooting Team’s evolving Paralympic program, and has her eyes set on the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I was kind of surprised! But now that I’m here [at the Olympic Training Center], I’ve been making a million adjustments,” she said. “[Foth] said I could keep shooting the way I was, but my scores weren’t going to get any better, so I’m working out the kinks, because hey, Rio’s the goal!”