By Julie Golob, Women’s Outdoor News
Every year that I have attended the NRA Bianchi Cup, Vera Koo has been there. Watching Vera train is almost like being frozen in time. Her movements and patterns are virtually the same as they were when I was a fresh-faced, blushing private in the U.S. Army attending my first NRA Action Pistol event. Jump into a time warp of almost 2 decades, not much has changed. To an outsider, Vera appears to be a creature of habit. To a shooter, to a competitor, she is reinforcing the techniques that have proven to be successful for her.
Throughout the years, I have learned to keep my distance when Vera is prepping and even practicing, out of respect for a fellow competitor. I have learned that at these times she is either in what athletes refer to “The Zone,” or is working to get there. When she steps off the line however, she is gracious and transfers that intense focus to joy as she smiles and looks me in the eye, remembering the little details about my life I shared with her many months ago when we last stood on the range together in Columbia, Mo.
Our shooting styles are probably as polar opposite as can be, yet, we have a lot in common. Last year, we both missed out on attending the 2013 NRA Bianchi Cup. Where it was bittersweet for me not being able to defend my 2012 Ladies Title, it was a nightmare for Vera. I missed out for the best reason in the world, a brand new baby girl. Vera, on the other hand, found herself lying on the ground and all alone at the range in agony, after a fall that resulted in a severe leg fracture while she trained for the competition earlier in the year.
We’re both planning a triumphant return this year. The ultimate goal is the same, to hoist that beautiful silver cup over our heads and to shoot a personal best. There can only be 1 winner though, and the competition has never been more fierce among the women. Vera and I are the “comeback kids” this year. To be honest, we are dreaming big, just being at Bianchi is a feat we are both very proud of.
Vera has been working hard to even step foot on the range. In a recent article at Women’s Outdoor News she describes her first match, ”It wasn’t the glamorous re-entry that most people might hope for, but I’d worked too hard to give up. I had endured months of physical therapy, doctors’ visits and the frustrating agony of putting one foot in front of the other, as I slowly retraced the carpet in my living room. I gathered myself and focused.”
My journey is different. Balancing the demands of a sharp little 6-year old and a soon-to-be toddler is a challenge I thoroughly love. Add to it moving more than 1,000 miles from my home in Montana to a new city, things are more than a little hectic. The dust still hasn’t settled and boxes have yet to be unpacked. Add to that the mental challenge of dealing with all the self doubt that comes with busting back on the circuit after a hiatus that seems like more like an eternity, it has had me a little preoccupied. Unlike many of my fellow competitors who have been launching rounds downrange and haven’t missed a beat or, in many cases, a shot, life is a constant juggling act for me. I wouldn’t change it for an instant, though.
As Bianchi Cup approaches, Vera and I know we’re the underdogs. We’re the self-proclaimed old-timers who still know what it takes to win and we’ll be working hard to do it. We’ve been through quite a bit, but we still have fight in us. Where our competition has the benefit of youth, talent and the ability to dedicate time, Vera and I have to face the demons of ego and the fear of losing skills, whether it is through injury or sabbatical. It takes a good bit of personal courage to venture out as past champions. We could indeed falter, but from the words of T.S. Eliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
To those of you who wonder or worry about taking your game and your life to the next level, I’ll close with another favorite quote that serves as an inspiration to me. “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” ~ Babe Ruth.
Julie Golob is one of the most accomplished professional shooters in the world and captain of Team Smith & Wesson. She has won more than 120 championship titles in international, national and regional marksmanship competitions in seven different shooting disciplines.