US Army Soldier Seeking Second Paralympic Berth

FORT MOORE, Ga. — U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Nguyen won the gold medal in both 10m Prone Air Rifle (R3) and 50m Prone Smallbore (R6) at USA Shooting’s Paralympic Trials – Part 2 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, February 2-10, 2024.

The recent wins in both disciplines puts the Purple Heart recipient in good standing over other top U.S. marksmen vying for a spot on Team USA’s Paralympic Rifle Team. In air rifle, Nguyen currently has a solid lead of two points while in smallbore his lead is an impressive seven points. To those not familiar with Paralympic shooting sports disciplines, a two or seven point spread may not seem like a lot. However, medals at the Olympic and Paralympic levels in the shooting sports are often determined by tenths or hundredths of points in scoring.

The Fort Moore Soldier said he is definitely happy with his strong performance, but the lead does not guarantee him a position on Team USA.

“It definitely takes a good bit of weight off my shoulders knowing that I have a comfortable lead over my fellow teammates and competitors, but that doesn’t mean I can become complacent,” said Nguyen who is a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and attached to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. “I will still go into Trials – Part 3 with the determination to compete at my highest and win.”

Like in the Olympics, each country is allowed a maximum of two athletes in each Paralympic event, if the country first wins the quota spots. Currently, the United States has only earned one quota spot for the 50m Smallbore (R6) event and has none in 10m Air Rifle (R3). However, the Para Shooting World Cup – India is coming up March 6-15, 2024, and USA Shooting is hoping to claim the remaining quota spot in smallbore and the outstanding two in 10m air rifle. That would open up four possible seats in those two shooting events.

The Paralympic Trials is not a new process to the Westminster, California native. He competed in the 2020 Paralympic Trials in Tokyo, where the Soldier said he gained some valuable experience that is helping him refocus his training.

“The biggest thing I want to focus on is match intensity. I know from my training and from the last few matches, that I can shoot the world class scores in matches. Now, it’s having to maintain composure and not get overly anxious like I did in Tokyo,” explained Nguyen.

“Tokyo, by far, was the most nerve-racking match I have ever competed in. I’m hoping, in France, I’m a little more composed and focused on my fundamentals.”

The significant performance at Paralympic Trials – Part 2 confirmed that Nguyen’s training plan is working. So as he prepares for the upcoming Para World Cup and Paralympic Trials – Part 3, the Soldier said he will continue working with his training plan that is showing results.

“I felt really good going into the match [Paralympic Trials – Part 2]. I’ve been working on my record days, focusing on shooting world class match scores on the spot. It felt really good to see that my training is mirroring my competition days.”

Training is not the only thing Nguyen has been working on though. He just became a new father, and he said he’s embracing every moment of this new experience.

“Being a father is such an awesome feeling, and I am enjoying every moment of it — even on days when I am not getting a whole lot of sleep. That’ just par for being a parent now, everybody goes through it.”

Becoming a father has not changed his perspective on his Paralympic goal, he just feels like he has added support now.

“I think having my family there with me at the Games will not only be a cool and fun experience, but it’s also a blessing. It’s like have your own cheerleading squad in the stands.”

As he aims to secure a position on Team USA’s Paralympic Rifle Team, for the second time, he said he has the same goal he had in Tokyo.

“I want to do better in France than I did in Tokyo; I’ve learn so much since then, and I am still fighting and wanting to bring home that Gold Medal for Team USA.”

By LTC Michelle Lunato

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