On Aug. 12, 2008, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker sat down with his computer somewhere in Beijing to answer questions about his experience as an Olympic marksman. Beijing marked the third time the 1996 graduate competed as a member of the United States’ Olympic Team, but he made it clear from the outset that the Olympic experience doesn’t grow old.
Q: How does it feel to be competing in Beijing, and have your feelings toward the Olympic experience changed from previous years?
A: The feelings are still the same. I am very proud to represent U.S.A. and the Army as I go into the Olympic games. It is a great feeling to have the support from my family and friends. All of my Olympic experiences have been great and there are no huge differences.
Q: What were your initial impressions of China and the work the country did for the Olympics?
A: We arrived here on Aug. 6. The shooting team was also here in April for a test event. This is a very nice country. The people here are very respectful and hardworking. I was worried about the air quality in April and when I first got here, but it rained the last two days, and now it’s a whole lot better. As I said before, all of the venues are among the best I’ve ever seen. The air in April was really nasty—way worse than I had expected. This time, with their controls, it’s much better. And we don’t drink their water here—only bottled water.
Q: What’s it like for Olympians at the Games?
A: There are a lot of things to do here in the village to stay busy. There are a couple of gyms, game rooms with pool, air hockey and shuffle board. There’s a pool in the village, Internet connections and some shopping. One of the neat things in the village is the dining facility. If you spend time there, you’re going to see some of the more famous Olympians hanging around. They also have all-you-can-eat-free McDonald’s. You wouldn’t believe how popular that is.
Q: The press likes to present images of friendship between athletes from different nations. What’s your experience?
A: The press likes those images a lot. The problem is that they don’t get all of those images. Friendship at the Olympic games—and in sport in general—is everywhere. That is one of the best things about the Olympics. Here on the shooting range yesterday, two shooters received a silver medal and a bronze medal. One was from Russia and the other from the country of Georgia. I’m sure you saw what’s going on in the news. The reporters were trying to play that up, but the two gave each other a hug and told the reporters that they were and will always be good friends. That’s what the Olympics are about.
Q: Let’s talk about your events.
A: I’m entered in two events. The first is 10-meter air rifle. The distance, of course, is 10 meters, or 33 feet, and it’s shot with a .177-caliber air rifle. I shoot 60 shots and a perfect shot is scored a “10,” so the highest score is a 600. The “10” ring in this event is .5 millimeters (about the size of the period at the end of this sentence). The time limit is one hour and 45 minutes. Once the qualification is over, the top eight scores proceed to the finals where the shots are scored in tenths of a point. The winner is the highest score with the qualification and finals score added together.
The other event is 50 meters with a .22 rifle. It’s shot with 40 shots in 3 different positions: prone, standing and kneeling, in that order. The “10” ring is about the size of a dime. The qualification and finals are all the same as air rifle.
Q: Where do your events take place?
A: The shooting venue is the Beijing Shooting Range in the Shijingshan district of Beijing. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride away from the Olympic village and the main green zone, where most of the venues are located.
Q: What’s the facility like?
A: All of the Olympic facilities are awesome. The shooting range is huge, and the Olympic village is nice and quiet. The Chinese have put beautiful gardens everywhere around all of the venues.
Q: You mentioned some good things happening in your first competition. What were they?
A: Some of the good things were mental obstacles that I handled very well. As you can imagine there’s a lot of pressure here at the games, so starting and ending the competitions are very hard. Both of those parts went very well. My preparations for the competition were also perfect. So next week, when I go into my next event, I already know I have a plan that works—I don’t have to worry about a pre-event plan as much.
Q: Any other comments you’d like to make about your Olympic experience?
A: As usual I have a lot of people to thank for all of their help and support, in no particular order: the U.S. Army and the Army Marksmanship Unit for providing the resources to succeed; my wife Andrea and kids Tommy and Wyatt for understanding why I try as hard as I do; my parents Dale and Sharon Parker for getting me started on the right path; Xavier University, and especially the rifle coach Alan Joseph, for a providing great place and atmosphere for me to develop into the person I am today; and U.S.A. Shooting, the national governing body for Olympic shooting sports that put everything together. There are a lot more people that deserve credit, but that would be a whole new e-mail, and I’m sure they know who they are.