Shooting has been very, very good to Vincent Hancock, who is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in men’s skeet.
“As a kid growing up in a very small town in Georgia, I had very limited opportunities to do something that was going to give me a chance to make something of myself,” said Hancock on Friday. “Now I’ve been to 26 or 27 different countries, and I’ve competed on the world stage. I’ve got friends who are the kings of countries.”
Hancock is the official spokesman for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Palmetto Shooting Complex on Gary Hill Road. The organization’s annual Turkey Shoot sporting clays tournament started there Thursday and ended Sunday.
The event attracted more than 400 shooters and around 1,000 spectators. Hancock talked to many of them and shot with some of them. He especially enjoyed spending time with the youngsters who participated.
“I want to pass on what I know and what I’ve experienced to the next generation,” Hancock said. “I’m a huge advocate of anything that has to do with getting children active outdoors and active in shooting sports because I know what shooting has done for me.”
In skeet, competitors firing shotguns try to hit clay targets thrown by machines.
“It’s a very mental game,” Hancock said. “It’s just like golf. Once you get the basics down, you can do them over and over again. But it’s being able to control your nerves that allows you to perform at the highest level.
Hancock, 27, won his first Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
“I was the young gun who was shooting at an extremely high level, and I was kind of expected to win,” he said. “I didn’t have a care in the world. All I wanted to do was go out and beat everybody.”
Hancock had captured a world championship in 2005 and added another in 2009. But then he hit a rough patch.
“After I accomplished my dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in 2008, I had nowhere else to go with it,” Hancock said. “I rode the winning high through 2009 and into 2010, and then, in 2011, I wasn’t having fun on the range. I didn’t want to practice anymore, and I wasn’t shooting well. I wanted to quit.”
Hancock’s wife, Rebekah, urged him to pray.
“It took a few months, but then I began to realize that this was what I really wanted to do; it was my passion,” Hancock said. “I knew what I needed to do to be able to perform at my highest level again, so I set little goals for myself, and I slowly worked my way back up.”
Hancock earned his second Olympic gold medal at the 2012 Summer Games in London and a third world championship in 2015.
Earlier this month, Hancock competed in his third Summer Olympic Games, but didn’t make it into the skeet finals in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was probably the worst time that I could have possibly asked for to have my worst match in years,” Hancock said. “There were some issues with the way the targets were set and there were weather issues with wind and rain. That’s stuff that I’m used to, but there just was something that wasn’t quite perfect. I was fighting against myself the whole time, but I gave it my all. Sometimes you just have a bad day. That’s what I felt like.”
Hancock would like to return to the Olympics at least once more.
“I want to continue through 2020 in Tokyo for sure and potentially through 2024,” he said. “I'll just have to see how things are going and what opportunities are presented to me.”