CMC professor starts running target club on campus, eyes big future
Steamboat Springs — Colorado Mountain College math professor Alex Krolik longs to bring a different kind of Olympic sport to Steamboat Springs.
It’s no secret that the city has pumped out more Winter Olympians than any other in North America. But Krolik has a deep background in a summer Olympics sport, one that even for the Summer Games isn’t exactly world renown, let alone nationally renown.
A native of Minsk, Belarus, running target air rifle and air pistol shooting has been a staple in Krolik’s life. In most of Europe and Asia, the sport is far from uncommon, and it typically shows during shooting competitions every four summers at the Olympic Games.
But the sport is fading out a bit, especially in the United States, where Krolik finds himself as one of the few still to eye competitive air rifle shooting, especially in the moving target category, which hasn’t been featured in the Olympics since 2004 in Athens.
Instead of sitting on his thousands of dollars of equipment and decades of experience as competition in the United States has neared extinction, Krolik is using his ties as a CMC professor to spark some interest in the largely forgotten sport that captivated him 21 years ago.
“This sport was big in Belarus,” Krolik said. “The 1976 Olympics in Montreal, the running target event was won by a Soviet athlete from Belarus. The silver medal went to a guy from my hometown of Minsk.”
This fall marks the first semester of Krolik’s launch of CMC’s Alpine Campus Running Target Club, where any student, man or woman, experienced or not, is welcome to join.
In mid-October, the club held its first event, an introduction to Olympic and international target shooting that was open to the public. About 20 interested locals turned out for the inaugural club event, attracting people as young as grade-school-age children and as old as those in their 80s.
Many got to test their aim using one of Krolik’s $2,500 compressed air rifles, which features a $3,000 scope. He also owns a specially tailored leather competition jacket, valued at about another $1,000.
Some of the most important equipment was donated to Krolik and the club on a bit of dumb luck. A man in Sacramento, California, phoned Krolik in September offering a pair of moving target machines, somewhat relic pieces of competition equipment that move targets on a timed running slide. The math professor didn’t hesitate to make the 15-hour drive to California’s capital to pick them up.
They are the same targets that are used in Olympic competition. In running target Olympic events — which Krolik holds out slim hope that they’ll make a Summer Games comeback — as many as 600 points are up for grabs in two separate rounds. One round features a slow run, where the slide target moves back and forth for as many as 30 shots. The other round is much of the same, except on a faster run, where precision is of the essence.
Speed isn’t key, Krolik insists; It’s consistency that makes someone talented.
The units were imperative to last month’s first club event, where shooters got to test their hand in a variety of different events, all of which are or have been featured in the Olympics. The club will hold a fundraising event in a few weeks as part of the college’s film festival.
“We had people just come in and try the 10-meter air rifle and the 10-meter air pistol, which are both still Olympic events,” Krolik said. “They then got to try the running target.”
A running target world championship runs every four years, in between Olympic dates. The most recent one was held in September in Spain, an event Krolik wished he could have been part of but was burdened by lack of national prominence.
So he’s turning his attention to his students and the Steamboat Springs community. With thousands of dollars in equipment and the blessing from the college to host club events in the campus’s small gymnasium, Krolik is hoping his sport catches on.
He also has even bigger aspirations than growing the club from the ground up. If participation numbers swell, he plans to host an international competition in Steamboat in May, after graduation. Krolik would invite some European competitors, host them in the campus dorms and pin his students young and old against the world’s best.
It’s a lofty goal for a start-up club, but it’s a sport that has done Krolik well for the 34 years he’s been alive, and he lights up at the idea of seeing others feel that, too.
“The thing about shooting sport is it’s a sport for life,” Krolik said. “As long as you hold the rifle steady and your mind is clear, you’re good to go.”
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