Before competing in the men’s 25-meter Rapid Fire Pistol shooting event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, SFC Keith Sanderson was faced with rebuilding his gun to replace a faulty trigger.
Sanderson was faced with turning from participant to gunsmith before earning 290 points on the first qualification round Aug. 12, just one point shy of making the cutoff to advance to the final. He repeated that total on the second day of qualification, Saturday, Aug. 13, which left him three places shy of advancing to the final.
“It’s an electronic trigger, so sometimes when they break there’s nothing you can do,” said Sanderson, 41, a native of San Antonio stationed at Fort Carson, CO, with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.
The U.S. Army news service reports Sgt. Sanderson ultimately finished out of medal contention, in ninth place. It represented his third time competing in the Summer Olympic Games.
“I didn’t just switch guns before the competition,” Sanderson said. “I put the barrel, grip, primer and bolt from my primary gun on my backup gun. Despite all that, I do feel like I went into the match very healthy—the strongest I've ever been as far as shooting.”
Sanderson remains proud of his achievements, both at the games and along his path to his spot on the Olympic team. His position in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program allows him to preparing for international competitions, but it also lets him to serve his country in other ways.
Soldier-athletes serve as positive role models for America’s youth, he said. They promote the concept that, with hard work and discipline, you can achieve gold medal results.
“We’re not pro athletes,” Sanderson said. “We don't make millions of dollars. We do more than just train for the Olympics.”
The World Class Athlete Program also enhances soldier resilience by demonstrating the benefits of the Army Performance Triad: healthy nutrition, sleep and exercise habits.
“[The program] just embodies that, and this is our way of trying to capitalize on that and give those lessons back,” Sanderson said. “It’s more like a lifestyle. Everything you do is disciplined, and everything you do you get in a habit of thinking about how this is going to impact you and your performance.”