BY JEFF FALK
The signficance and importance of the accomplishment can not be over-stated.
It is akin to having multiple residents drafted into the NFL or having a local boy selected as the second overall pick in the NBA draft or having the most dominant basketball player ever drop 100 points in your backyard. It is one of the most meaningful achievements in the history of Lebanon County sports.
On Saturday morning in London, England, Jamie Beyerle-Gray, a Lebanon native and Cedar Crest High School graduate, won the gold medal in the women’s 50-meter three-position shooting at the 2012 Summer Olympics. By winning gold medals in their respective disciplines at the Olympics, athletes are recognized as the best in the world at their sports.
Not only is Beyerle-Gray’s Olympic medal believed to be the first gold ever earned by a Lebanon County athlete, it is also thought to be the first Olympic medal of any kind won by a local native. A week earlier, Beyerle-Gray had finished fifth in the women’s 10-meter air rifle competition at the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
Beyerle-Gray was not immediately available for comment. But her father, Rod Beyerle, who lives in Lebanon, was.
“I know we’re pretty proud of her,” said Beyerle. “It can only be described in one word, ‘awesome’. Not only was it a gold medal, but it was an Olmpic record.’
Beyerle-Gray’s final score of 691.9 points established a new Olympic standard and surpassed the previous mark set by Du Li of China at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Beyerle-Gray also set an Olympic record with a preliminary/qualifying score of 592.
Ivana Maksimovic of Serbia finished a distant 4.4 points behind Beyerle-Gray and claimed the silver medal, while the Czech Republic’s Adela Sykorova copped the bronze medal.
“We were all rooting for her,” said Beyerle of an intimate gathering of family and friends at his home. “Every shot that came down, she held her own and it was great. When it came down to the last shot, it was just fantastic. It was a long time in coming. She’s been trying for this for her whole life.
“The score she shot in qualification was exceptional, better than the Olympic record by three points,” added Beyerle. “Jamie went into the finals two point ahead. You can make that up, but it’s tough.'”
Beyerle-Gray, who entered the competition ranked 12th in the world in the event, took a comfortable two-point margin into the ten-shot final. In the final, she shot 10.5, 9.2, 10.3, 10.1, 9.6, 10.5, 10.0, 8.9 and 10.8, in that order.
With Maksimovic applying a bit of pressure, Beyerle-Gray’s final shot of 10.8, was a mere 0.1 short of perfection and placed an exclamation point on one of the finest performances of her distinguished international career.
“Ever since she was 15, that was her dream,” said Beyerle of his daughter’s gold medal. “Her dream came true today. She started out with a BB gun and she kind of followed in her brother’s footsteps. She competed in a Daisy BB gun international championship one time, and she was competing against the best of the best.
“It’s just as hard to get an Olympic gold medal in shooting as it is in any other sport,” Beyerle added. “It’s not an easy thing to do. In her type of shooting adrenalin is a negative thing because you’re trying to be as still as you can be.”
At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Beyerle-Gray just missed a pair of medals, finishing fourth in the 10-meter air rifle competition and fifth in the 50-meter three-position event. Beyerle-Gray has always considered the 50-meter three-position competition her strongest.
“Her qualifying score was a 592 and that’s one point off the world record,” said Beyerle. “The thing you have to remember is that that’s missing the ten-ring just eight times. And that’s standing, kneeling and prone. In an actual upper-level competition, it was some of the best shooting she’s ever done. That score speaks for itself.”
In 1980, after just a year at the University of Kentucky, Lebanon High grad Sam Bowie was selected to play for the United States men’s olympic basketball team. But the USA boycotted that summer Olympiad in Moscow and Bowie and his American teammates were denied an opportunity to earn a medal.
“I was always a shooter,” said Beyerle. “I competed in rifle, archery, pistol and shotgun. But we were never going to push her towards shooting. But she was a real good sports-person. She’s very athletic. I was happy to see her go into shooting because I really like the sport. It (her desire) came from me in the beginning, but I think the driving force was the competition between her and her brother.”