It’s not 12-gauges and clay pigeons out in a field. It’s
22-caliber, three position smallbore and air-rifles in an indoor rifle range. And
this isn’t the type of rifle you see the Mountaineer swinging at WVU sports
events. They look a lot more like something you’d see in a science fiction
film. Or maybe in a physics classroom.
“You have your rifles. They’re always specially designed to
have dozens if not a few hundred adjustments possible,” says Thomas Kyanko, an
engineering student from Wellsburg, WV who shoots on the team.
“So basically, you kind of custom fit the rifle to
yourself. And as far as the gear, we all have special suits and boots that we
wear which basically help you to be more rigid in position. You’re not allowed
to use a bipod for prone or kneeling so instead you use, well, if you’re right
handed like me, a sling from your left hand to the gun. And then some people
like myself use glasses as well, which basically is like a monocle design. And
then you’ll have blinders so that you can keep both eyes open and reduce eye
Kyanko is big into computer science and wants to go into a
career in cyber security when he finishes school. In the mean time, he’s been
developing online live scoring for the rifle matches so far-flung friends,
family, and fans can follow WVU’s rifle matches live as they happen.
Kyanko refers to a small notebook between events so that he
know exactly how to adjust the butt plate, trigger blade, grip, sights, sight
riser and level, hand stop, and cheek piece, in addition to suit and boot
Coach Jon Hammond explains that the matches are all-day
“It’s a precision sport,” Hammond says. “Here on the range
we compete with two different types of rifles. One is a smallbore, 22-caliber,
bolt action rifle. The other one is a 1-7-7 air rifle, which is essentially
just a pellet gun. They shoot a standing match with the air rifle, and a
three-position match with the smallbore rifle. It is very different from what a
lot of people would expect.”
“More than anything it’s a mental sport. They might shoot
for one, two, three hours on end and they’re just either standing, kneeling, or
lying in the exact same position and doing the exact same thing over and over
and over again. So it’s very repetitive and in order to do that you have to
have a huge amount of will power, a huge amount of patience and discipline.
It’s a sport where you really compete more against yourself than the opponent.”
A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, this is the start of
Hammond’s 7th year as WVU’s rifle coach. He spent time at home over
the summer representing the British National Rifle Team in the 2012 London
Summer Olympics. It was his second Olympic games.
“I had my parents there, my fiancée came over, I have a lot
of friends from school that live in London now, a lot of the shooting community
that I grew up with back home were able to come and watch so that was really
special, so basically, an all around amazing experience.”
Hammond isn’t the only Mountaineer who shot in the
Olympics. Petra Zublasing, a senior in civil engineering, represented her home
in Italy in the London Olympics over the summer.
“It was my first Olympic event and I have to say that I
didn’t win a medal but I learned so much about what to do and what it is like,”
Zublasing says. “The Olympics can either be the experience of your life or the
scariest experience of your life. I talked to so many people who were like,
‘This is the worst competition I’ve ever shot. It was just so scary and anxious
and never again.’ I tried to not make it that way because it’s just not worth
it because if you don’t like doing what you do you should just not do it.”
Zublasing finished 12th at the games in the women’s
50m Rifle 3 Position event. She says she wasn’t disappointed.
“My goal was to go there and do my best and whatever
happens to be happy. And that’s what I did. I made some mistakes but I have no
regrets. I enjoyed being there. It was a great life experience and I had great
A reigning NCAA air rifle champion, Zublasing shot for
Italy alongside her boyfriend, former Mountaineer Nicco Campriani, who was also
a NCAA air rifle champion. Campriani walked away from the Olympics with both a
silver and a gold medal.
Zublasing says this season at WVU is a fun one for her
because her teammates are improving to the point where she feels challenged by
She says she’s looking forward to graduating and returning
home to her family in Italy where she hopes to continue shooting as well as
continuing her education in the field of energy engineering.