Sunday the 28th of June brought a new record to USA Shooting's National Championships as eighth-grade pistol shooter Carson Saabye earned a bronze medal in Women’s Air Pistol, thus becoming the youngest National Team member in the history of USA Shooting. Saabye earned two of the medals handed out in Air Pistol. Along with her bronze medal, she was the runner-up to Lydia Paterson in the junior event. She’ll compete later this week in the Sport Pistol event.
Amazingly, Carson is just three years into the sport. She’s a straight-A student, a member of the National Junior Honor Society, and shooting isn’t the only sport she’s good at: She’s also the starting shortstop for her softball team, Team Colorado Rawlings, which recently won the Triple Crown state championship and qualified to play at Nationals later this summer in Park City, Utah.
Carson's part of an rising group of junior competitors training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of the National Training Center Junior Shooting Club program. Her teammate, 14-year-old Will Shaner, broke a J3 (14 years and younger) national record in Men’s Prone Rifle on his way to a silver medal finish in the junior division and earning National Junior Team status with USA Shooting. He was the high J3 finisher in Three-Position Rifle earlier this week.“
Carson continues to amaze us all with her accomplishments,” said Jim Shaver, one of the club’s founders. “I see no end to her string of successes. Off the firing line, she is an easy-going, ain’t no big deal kind of kid. But focusing and shooting 10s makes her a very big deal on the firing line. Her secret may be that she is an elite junior softball player also, so she practices focusing more than many shooters – bat on ball, or pellet to the 10-ring.”
Given the longevity of the athletes in this sport and the payoffs that come with experience, shooting is a sport hard to break through the clutter and ranks early in your career. Never before has anyone ever broken through as soon as Saabye. Five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode was a National Team member at age 14. Saabye’s podium partner today, Paterson, was a National Team member at age 16.
“It’s kind of like it’s not actually real,” said Saabye, when asked how she was feeling. “It’s a dream or something and I’m just really happy about it."
She got involved in the sport because her dad made her go to the range, hoping to find someone in the family to shoot alongside him. She had no desire to shoot rifle, which was her father's hope, but she was fascinated by pistol.
“I love shooting because it’s difficult mentally and still challenging physically,” she explained. “It’s unlike any other sport because I can shoot with people who just started, Olympians and people of all ages. It’s a personal sport, so it’s just me controlling my outcome and everyone here is nice and supportive. I would like to experience the Olympic dream and go as far as it will take me. I’ll compete in this sport as long as I’m having fun.”
“We’re very excited for her success,” said the proud dad. “Obviously, it’s always exciting when a kid achieves in public what you see them do in practice. She’s a pretty special kid and sets hard goals and works hard for them.”
As for the next steps, he's is taking a cautious approach. “I think it’s important that she grows into her skills emotionally too. There’s no advantage putting her into high-pressure situations that actually might take the fun out of it.”