Boasting good looks, a bubbly personality and a unique skill, Amanda Furrer has been a media star in the days leading up to the Olympic Games. Her story has been told throughout her home state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest as well as on NBCOlympics.com, Guns.com and other outlets. A business major at Ohio State, she is enrolled in the Fisher College of Business and has one year of eligibility remaining to shoot at OSU, where she has starred for the past three seasons while earning All-America mention.
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
Event: 50-meter smallbore three position competition, Aug. 4
How Qualified: Furrer punched her ticket June 11, finishing the U.S. qualifying process with a total score of 1,957.9 over three days at the trials held in Fort Benning, Ga. She held a lead going to the final day, fell behind and then rallied to edge out fellow competitors Jamie Gray and Sarah Scherer for the top spot and a trip to London.
Medal Chances: Gold medalist and Olympic record holder Du Li of China returns to the event after scoring 690.3 in 2008; Furrer shot 688.4 in one segment of the U.S. qualification. In the world of shooting, where everything is balanced on a knife’s edge, anything can happen.
Ohio State Career: Furrer has finished in the top 10 in the NCAA each of her years at Ohio State in smallbore rifle, with her best finish a seventh-place mark in 2010. Her résumé also includes a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in 2007, a gold medal in the junior team competition at the 2010 world championships and alternate status for the 2008 Olympic Games
In Her Own Words: “I would have never expected I would ever end up doing this sport when I was younger. I started out with soccer and dance, actually, and my dad got my sister (Lauren) involved in shooting. She was born with mild cerebral palsy because she was born premature, so she had a hard time doing other sports. He was trying to think of something competitive that she could do. When she started shooting, it was something that she was pretty good at, and me being two years younger than me, I had to do it also.
“I started when I was 11 years old, and my dad actually started me in my garage. I would shoot a little air rifle outside of the garage, and we had another garage outside, so I would shoot onto that garage. I like completely shot up the garage when I first started. I was absolutely horrible.
“Then I joined the Spokane Rifle Club later on that year and started hearing about different competitions I could go to. I had an experience where I met Sarah Blakeslee, who was on the national team. I had just started, and I was awful and randomly decided to go shoot this match over on the west side of the state. She was on the national team and going to the Olympics, and I got to meet her and talk to her and was so inspired. I started figuring out things I could do in the sport and qualified for the Junior Olympics when I turned 13. Things pretty much started from there. I told my dad I wanted to quit dance and soccer and be an Olympic shooter. That’s where things began.
“The Olympics was the goal all along, but it’s one of those things where when you’re young, you have all these dreams. Some people want to be famous actors. Some people want to be famous in their sport or be doctors or whatever it is. I always said I wanted to be an Olympian, but like all the other kids, it’s just a dream. I thought it was going to be just a dream up until June 11.
“I’m really close with my national teammates and the girls that I run into at a lot of competitions. We’re really good friends. Some of my best friends shoot with me. We all prepared really hard for trials.
“I took off the last three months of school (before trials) and I was living at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs working on shooting the entire time and getting away from things, including getting myself focused and hanging out with the other athletes. Going into the competition, I knew that a lot of my friends had worked just as hard, so I had to have faith in my preparation, faith in my skills, faith in myself and a lot of faith in God.
“I prayed a lot about it and everything, but I knew the other girls were just as prepared, so I would use positive self talk and I just tried to build up my confidence a lot. I felt really good going into the competition, but I had prepared more to not make it than I did to make it. It’s just to guard yourself emotionally because it was one spot left open for all of us to try out for. The chances were I wasn’t going to make it. I had set up all the plans for the summer – I had just signed for a new apartment, I had everything all set up.
“When I did qualify, it was like, I could not believe that just happened. I couldn’t believe that my dream is coming true. Everything I’ve always thought about and worked for for the last 10 years of my life, it’s all coming to this.
“The second day of trials, I ended up shooting the high score of the day. I was in first by like five points or something, which doesn’t say that much because we still had a whole other day to shoot, but having a lead at the Olympic trials isn’t a bad thing. If you can handle it mentally, being in first and staying in first is a good way to go, and I knew I could do that.
“Going into the third day, though, I started off awesome and didn’t drop any points in my first stage, but the second stage, it wasn’t great and I dropped too many points. I was a little nervous but I was still pretty calm. It was just one of those days where after three days of competition plus another competition before that, I was just getting worn out. I couldn’t hold it together in that position.
“I came off the line and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I just lost my spot in the Olympics. I can’t believe I let that happen.’ I had a couple of bad shots from there I wish that I could have controlled, but I was just having a really rough time. I stepped back off the line and saw how the other girls were shooting and counted it in my head and I thought that I was way down.
“I went to my dad outside and I was trying to fight back the tears, but I talked to him and we talked about this one match that I shot in the past. I went to Brazil (for the Pan American Games) and had the same situation happen and I got down to my last position and performed awesome. My dad and I talked about that day and how I needed to apply the same skills going into the last round in this match.
“I pulled myself back together and was like, ‘I can’t let this go. I can’t settle for shooting poorly my last day and losing my spot.’ I shot one of the best rounds that I’ve ever shot in my life at a national or international match. If I had let one or two more shots go, I could have been out of it, so I was glad that I could pull it together.
“I do pretty good in pressure cookers. They call me the comeback queen, which I don’t necessarily like because I don’t like having to come back, but being the comeback queen if something does go wrong is OK. I’m confident in that.
“My goals go a lot further than just making the team. My goal is to go further than that and try to medal at the Olympics. I want at least to go into the Games knowing that I prepared well and I want to go in confident and knowing there’s nothing I could have done differently. Knowing that my goals went further than just making the team I think was a huge relief for me going into trials.
“I would like to medal, so that’s my ultimate goal. Besides that, I am really excited about all the people that I’m going to meet, and hopefully I’m going to see some really cool athletes. I’m inspired by so many people that are going. To be surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world, it’s unreal to me. I really can’t wait to march into the stadium waving that flag and representing my country. I’ve heard it’s one of the best feelings in the world, and you can just feel the electricity walking in. I hear it’s one of those moments you really feel like an Olympian.
“There aren’t that many programs for rifle, and my dad was looking at it and was like, ‘Ohio State has a program?’ So he contacted the coach and my dad did some research and found out they have one of the best business schools in the country. I was going into a business major so we decided to visit. On my way back from Memphis and Kentucky, I went to Ohio State. My mom came with me, and driving around campus, I was like, ‘Wow, I think this is the place I want to be.’ The atmosphere is just so cool.
“Just driving around the campus, you can feel the energy. There’s so many students and so many cool things going on all the time. They took me to a football game and I was like, ‘This is unreal. I can’t believe I’m actually here right now,’ seeing all these people and all the fans. Just how the student life and the whole community comes together, I was like, ‘This is the place for me.’ I knew as soon as I went there, so I signed that letter as soon as I got back, but I’m really glad that I made that decision.
“I’m in the business school right now, but as far as Ohio State athletics go, I can’t imagine being somewhere else. The support that we have at school is incredible and the people that back us and all the things that they do for us. Our study center, the opportunities for tutors and whatever we need from trainers, they’re always there to help. I can’t really imagine shooting for any other school.
“I never really got to shoot as part of a team before. Shooting is an individual sport up until you get to college pretty much. Having teammates to help you practice and to help you learn in a group atmosphere and to help build each other up, the support is great. The team definitely helped me to get to where I am today.
“My sport is a little different. Being a precision shooter, we have all this crazy equipment, and our guns look like space guns. It’s different than any shooting equipment you’ve probably seen. But when I meet people and tell them I’m a shooter, they’re like, ‘What do you mean, like basketball?’ I get funny questions like that, but people are usually shocked because I am very girly and outgoing and not the typical girl that would be involved in something that is known as a man’s sport. I don’t really fit the character, but that is what I’m all about. I’m all about my guns. I’m still about the girly thing, and it just happens to work well together. It’s fun to be able to share my story with everybody and get more people interested. I like to take people shooting and get people involved.
“I am pretty big into faith. I am a Christian so I do some Bible study and that kind of thing. I enjoy shopping and lots of outdoors stuff. I like fishing and four-wheeling and that kind of thing. I really like music and fashion and all that stuff, but mostly I just enjoy being around people and my friends and learning more about others and just enjoying everyone’s company.
“People see us and think like, ‘Oh, wow, they’re an Olympian. I wonder what they do with their life.’ They think we just do sports and that’s it. They don’t see us really outside of it because they don’t know that we’re Olympians. If you see someone on the street, you wouldn’t be able to just pick them out unless it’s someone like Michael Phelps. People think, ‘They’re an Olympian, they must have it made. They just have the life.’ But really, we’re just normal people just walking around on the street with everybody else. People don’t realize we’re just going to class and doing our own thing and happen to be really good at our sport."