By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 28, 2012) -- After the spotlight of the Olympic games in London, and another gold medal to add to the one he earned in Beijing four years ago, Sgt. Vincent Hancock has returned to the United States and is now reaping accolades for his performance behind a Beretta DT10 shotgun.
In a couple of weeks, on Sept. 14, Hancock and other members of the U.S. team from the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London will visit the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.
This year the U.S. sent more than 530 athletes to London to compete in the games, and those Americans brought home 29 bronze medals, 29 silver medals, and 46 gold medals, one of which was earned by Hancock, July 31, for his performance in the men's skeet competition.
Before Hancock leaves the Army in December, he will represent the service multiple times as the young Soldier from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, or USAMU, who was the first-ever Olympian to win two gold medals in skeet shooting.
This Labor Day weekend, for instance, Hancock will attend a NASCAR race in Atlanta. There he will represent the Army at the USAMU booth. He'll also meet with NASCAR drivers at the race and will be onstage representing the Army as race drivers are introduced.
Hancock will also be recognized for his prowess behind the shotgun at the Maneuver Warfighter's Conference at Fort Benning, Ga., Sept. 18. And this October, during the two-day "Expo" before the start of the Army Ten-Miler race, Oct. 21, in Washington, D.C., Hancock will sign autographs, and hold a shooting clinic for visitors. He'll also be at the race's starting line with Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to start the race for competing wounded warriors.
A local hero now, Hancock has interviewed with every television station in the Fort Benning, Ga., area, home of the USAMU. He's also been featured on ESPN radio, CNN, and the Dee Armstrong Show. He's been invited to appear on Spike TV and the "Sons of Guns" show on the Discovery Channel. He'll also provide tips on "Shooting USA" on the Outdoor Channel this fall.
While the Olympics is over for now, Hancock won't stop competing. Next month he'll compete in the invitational World Cup Final in Slovenia, Sept. 20-26. And the following month he'll compete in the Shotgun Selection Match for the USA Nationals in Kerville, Texas, Oct. 1-9.
Those competitions are not as big as the 2012 Olympics, nor as big as the 2016 Olympics, where Hancock hopes to again represent the United States as part of the U.S. Olympic shooting team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He said he's started training already for that event.
"Twenty sixteen is definitely in my sites," Hancock said during a telephone media roundtable, Aug. 28. "I love the range at Rio. I won the Pan-American games there in 2007, so I am looking forward to getting there, and representing my country yet again. Though I won't be in a military uniform, I'll definitely make sure that everybody knows it's because of the military that I'm in the spot I am (in)."
While Hancock was already a champion with the shotgun before he joined the Army in 2006, he said the Army has provided him with something that he couldn't get elsewhere.
"The military has given me a completely different outlook on life," Hancock said. "The determination they have instilled in me and the ability to grasp hold of opportunities is unlike any other. That's what the military instills in their Soldiers.
"The military has led me in a direction that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else," Hancock said. "The marksmanship unit family that I've come to know over the past six years has just been an amazing company to be in. They have pushed me further than I knew that I could have gone and they helped mold me into the man I am today."
After the Army, Hancock will continue to compete. But the skills he learned before the Army, and the skills he learned in the Army as part of the USAMU will not end with him. He plans to pass those skills on to others. Already, he and his father have started the "Hancock Shooting Academy," where he said all those who want will be able to come learn to be better shooters.
Hancock said it isn't money or more medals that's motivating him anymore. He said instead it's the desire to further the sport of shooting, to bring more into the fold, and to teach those newcomers what he knows.
"We've had people come to us for lessons that have never even touched a shotgun before and this is their first time," Hancock said. "My goal for the shooting academy is not just to take the elite-of-the-elite and help them get better; it's to help grow the sport. That's the stage I'm in, in my career right now. I'm not about winning as many medals as possible, or making as much money as I can. It's about growing my legacy, being able to pass on the knowledge I've learned over the past 13 years to people all around the nation and all around the world."
Hancock started competing in shooting at age 11, and said he now wants to do everything he can to promote the sport; something he said has given him a lot.
"Shooting has changed my life, so dramatically, that I can't compare it to anything else in my life," he said. "Being a part of a U.S. national team, and the international skeet community, I got my wife; she was a shooter before we met. It's given me so much, I want to give back."
Hancock is a native of Eatonton, Ga., but now lives in Columbus, Ga., with his wife, Rebekah, also a shooter, and his two daughters.