Amber English cited a mantra that it takes, on average, 10 years to build an Olympic athlete. By that logic, the 30-year-old Cheyenne Mountain grad is right on track, working through it.

After nearly a decade of trying, English earned a spot in Tokyo the first week of March at Part 2 of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Shotgun. English said she was exhausted and in a mental fog by the end of the four windy days in Tucson, Ariz. She emerged at the top of the field with a cumulative score of 532, shooting a perfect score in six of 10 rounds.

Now, she waits. Thankfully, she said enlisting in the Army three years ago made her a more patient person.

Fort Benning, Ga., where she’s stationed, put quarantine measures into effect. Domestic and international competitions are on hold due to coronavirus concerns. But she’s fortunate, as she still has access to the shooting range and was planning on taking some time off anyway.

The Summer Games haven’t been postponed or canceled, so she’s preparing.

“People get paid a lot more than I do to make those decisions so I’ll just go with the flow,” said English, who contended in 2012 and was an alternate for the Rio Games.

Her father Mike, whom she shared a close relationship with, died suddenly in between Olympic Trials. She took time off to reflect and ultimately decided she had more to give. She also made a drastic change, enlisting in the Army after living at the Olympic Training Center for several years. She’s now a first lieutenant in the reserves and part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, assigned to Army Marksmanship Unit

“I really poured my heart and soul into figuring out, what I can do to be better?” English said. “I wound up doing something completely wild and different.”

“I only regret not joining earlier.”

At 27, she drew some ribbing from younger recruits, who called her “Grandma.”

“‘Grandma just did more push-ups than you, so,’” English recalls responding.

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, English was a dedicated gymnast in a family full of shooting athletes. Her mother Ana was a four-time All-American in rifle at Eastern Kentucky while her father and uncle were once Olympic Training Center residents.

Mike was a member of the U.S. Shooting National Team from 1978 to 1988 and a five-time national champion in running target. He served as president of the USA Shooting Board of Directors. Ana joined the board last summer.

After ending her gymnastics career, Amber tried her hand at her family’s beloved pastime. Pistol didn’t hold her attention. Shotgun clicked. She was a “natural shot,” her mother said.

Once she switched focus, things moved quickly. Lloyd Woodhouse, the longtime U.S. shotgun coach, took Amber under his wing. Within a year of shooting at a target for the first time, she was on the Junior Olympic Team, and not long after that, the U.S. Development Team.

Soon, if nothing changes, the Olympics.

Amber shares her “general attitude and wit” with her father, Ana said. Those have served her well in this journey.

“Her diligence, her sense of calm around the competitions, her attitude in general,” Ana said, have contributed to her success. “If you look at where she is now and how she reacts to any type of drama, for example coronavirus... ‘Hey, I’m going to work through all of this.’

“(There’s been) heartache, life’s been really tough, but she’s worked through it.”

USA Swimming appeals to USOPC to push Tokyo Olympics back a year because of coronavirus
Q&A: USOPC leaders on training center status, training advisory and athlete's pending COVID-19 test
Load comments