Meet the Fort Moore Soldiers Competing for Team USA in the 2024 Paris Olympics

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February 6, 2024
U.S. Army Sergeants Sagen Maddalena and Ivan Roe earned spots on Team USA

A black target slightly bigger than a quarter presents itself 10 meters away down range at an indoor practice facility at Fort Moore in Georgia.

Sergeants Sagen Maddalena and Ivan Roe, with an air rifle in hand, stack shots on top of a bullseye roughly the size of a period.

Both soldiers are part of the Army Marksmanship Unit located at Fort Moore. The unit was built in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to compete with the Soviets at the time.

Both Maddalena and Roe recently qualified to represent Team USA in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris for the 10 meter air rifle event.

This event requires participants to fire 60 rounds at a target slightly larger than a quarter while holding an 11-pound rifle with iron sights (no magnification) for upwards of an hour and 15 minutes.

When Maddalena made the 10 meter air rifle team she said it felt like her hard work had paid off. She’s been trying to make the 10 meter air rifle team since college.

She said making the team didn’t hit her until weeks later when she had a nightmare in which she didn’t make the team.

“Then I woke up and I’m like, ‘No, I did make the team. That’s a nightmare. This is real,’ ” Maddalena said.

Roe said he’s been trying to become an Olympian for 12 years. He felt a sense of euphoria and relief after qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics for the event.

“I don’t really know if it’s sank in because I haven’t really came up with a new goal yet,” said Roe.

The road to becoming an Olympian

Maddalena grew up going to the shooting range with her grandfather and went to a shooting program through her membership in 4-H at age 13. Maddalena, now 30, will be heading to her second Olympic games after making the team.

Roe began his shooting journey after receiving a Red Ryder BB gun from his father when he was 4-years-old. Roe said he still has that BB gun to this day.

Later, his dad signed him up for a hunter’s education and BB gun safety class when he was 7. At 28 years old, he will be heading to his first Olympic Games this year.

Now, Roe and Maddalena fire air rifles far more complex than the Red Ryder BB gun Roe grew up shooting.

“You’re not just trying to shoot tens, you’re trying to shoot deep tens,” said Roe.

The 10 meter air rifle event is scored by decimal points with the highest score for a shot being a 10.9 for a dead center shot. A world class score would be a 630 or above with the top score possible being 654, according to Roe.

Roe said he’s spent over 50,000 hours practicing his craft in order to reach the level he’s at today.

Roe and Maddalena spend at least 36 hours a week training to become the skilled marksmen they are.

Maddalena was an eight-time NCAA All-American and made the world championship team in 2014 during her 5 years on the shooting team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Roe was an NCAA All-American seven times during his time at Murray State University in Kentucky and led the team to NCAA placements his sophomore and junior years. As a junior he won two bronze medals and a silver medal at air rifle competitions.

Maddalena had previously participated in the 50 meter smallbore event in the 2021 Tokyo Games and placed fifth in the event. She was chosen as an alternate for the 10 meter air rifle event in the Tokyo Games.

Maddalena called her first Olympic Games “awe-inspiring.”

She will be competing to reclaim her spot on the 50 meter smallbore team in March at the competition hosted at Fort Moore.

Roe will also be competing in the 50 meter smallbore competition to gain his first appearance on the team in that event.

Advice to younger marksmen

“Inside, with air gun, it’s almost like the condition is whatever your mind is doing that day,” said Maddalena.

Maddalena said her stiffest opponent she’s ever faced has been herself.

“I can get in my own way, but I can also get out of the way and let myself do pretty awesome things,” said Maddalena.

Maddalena told younger marksmen interested in sports shooting, “It’s very rewarding.”

“You kind of gain a level of maturity being able to handle a firearm properly and compete with it,” said Maddalena.

Roe tells inspiring marksmen the sport shooting requires hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and you’re going to make a lot of sacrifices along the way that at the time might not seem worth it,” said Roe. “When you get to where you wanted to go, you’ll look back and it’ll all be worth it.”

What are they looking forward to in Paris?

Maddalena said while she’s focused on the competition at the upcoming Olympic Games, she said she’s also looking forward to other cultural differences.

“I love trying coffee in different countries,” she offered for instance.

Roe said the thing he’s most looking forward to in the 2024 Olympics is walking in the opening ceremony. “That might be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Roe.

“When they say U.S.A., and all of the athletes walk out, there’s a whole stadium cheering for you,” said Roe. “Watching on TV is probably nothing compared to being in it.”

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