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Photo: Courtesy of Jesica Levine

Shooting for Gold

2012 Olympics in her sights

Jessica Levine was thirteen when she discovered what she calls her “weird natural talent” for shooting. It was her last week of summer camp, and she was arbitrarily assigned to take riflery. “When I saw my schedule, I refused to go to the range,” Jessica, now a freshman, recalls. “They had to force me to go shoot. But when I did, it turned out I was really good at it.” Just three years later, after settling into a practice routine of six or more hours a week, she won gold medals in .22 caliber and air rifle in the New Hampshire State Junior Olympic matches. Last summer she won an NRA national championship for precision air rifle.

Further down the road, she hopes to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. What has it taken to reach that level? For one thing, strength training: during each round of competition, she must hold a rifle steady for as long as an hour and a half. Aerobic fitness is also essential, to lower her resting pulse below the point where it interferes with her aim. And she has had to develop a rabbitlike sensitivity to atmospheric conditions. A slight change in the wind can deflect a bullet, and a change in the light—say, from a cloud passing in front of the sun—can alter the apparent position of the target. Finally, she has learned to tolerate athletic wear in which, paradoxically, it’s almost impossible to move. Shooters’ stiff canvas-and-leather suits are designed to lock them into position; their shoes—with flat, rigid, ground-hugging soles—prevent even the most infinitesimal roll of the foot.

But the thrill of excelling makes it all worthwhile, as does the camaraderie. “The shooting community’s small, and everyone’s nice,” she says. And no, she’s not the only woman. Not even close. She points out that while males will stay in the game just for the fun of shooting, women generally stick with it only if they’re serious competitors. “There are a lot of girls at these matches, and they’re all really, really good.”

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