By Brittany Nelson, USAS Public Relations & Communications Manager

COLO SPRGS, CO (March 5, 2024) – After shooting international skeet for the first time at the age of 12, Vincent Hancock told his parents he was going to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal. Now at age 34, Hancock has achieved that goal not only once, but three times.

Hancock was introduced to the sport of shooting through his dad, Craig Hancock, who was a competitive shooter. His dad coached a 4H team and Hancock often accompanied him to the practices. When Hancock was just 10 years old, he shot his first round of skeet just east of Atlanta. He moved on to sporting clays and then was introduced to international skeet, the Olympic discipline.

“I shot really well my first day and thought ‘This is fun I can do this’,” said Hancock, a three-time Olympic gold medalist. “The next day I shot terrible but on the drive home I told my parents ‘I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to win a gold medal’.”

Vincent Hancock, center, on the podium in Beijing 2008 after winning his first Olympic gold medal. Photo by Tim Hipps

Twenty three years later, Hancock is still going strong on his Olympic journey. He is working to qualify for his fifth Olympic Games, this time in Paris, France.

Hancock has experienced four Olympic Games, each journey unique in its own way. He started his Olympic gold medal collection at his first Games in Beijing, China, in 2008 when he was just 19 years old.

“It was just a rush of emotions,” said Hancock about winning his first Olympic gold medal. “It was a dream come true. It was something I had worked for since I was 12 years old. I was expected to win, and I expected myself to win, but at the same time accomplishing that feat was something that is hard to put into words.”

Hancock earned his second consecutive Olympic gold medal in Men’s Skeet at the London 2012 Games where he was accompanied by not only his wife but his two young daughters. His second gold medal made him the first Olympic Skeet shooter to win gold medals in the same event in back-to-back Olympic Games. His third Olympic Games was Rio 2016 where he placed 15th.

Vincent Hancock, far left, with the other USA Shooting London 2012 Olympic medalists. Hancock won his second Olympic gold in London.

“Rio was different,” said Hancock, a three-time Pan American Games Champion. “It didn’t feel the same and it was hard for me.”

Hancock spoke about the process he went through after his performance in Rio. He reflected on the reason he got into the sport in the first place, for the love of the game. He mentioned that if he is going to keep doing this for the rest of his career, he wanted it to be fun.

“I was trying to understand what went wrong for me and figure out why,” said Hancock, a four-time World Champion. “I knew there were a lot of expectations, but I have always had a lot of expectations. I had to come to the understanding of ‘Why am I doing this? I am doing this because at 10 years old I found something that I loved.’ I needed to make sure that I enjoyed every moment of the process that I can.”

With a new outlook on his shooting career, Hancock went into the next Olympic quad and qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Games. After being postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hancock earned his third Olympic gold medal in 2021. His fourth Olympic experience was very unique given the circumstance of the world at the time.

“Tokyo was vastly different because of COVID,” said Hancock, a two-time CAT Games Champion. “No one was allowed to be there. There was no family, no friends, nothing except for teammates, so we had a pretty close team.”

Vincent Hancock on the podium in Tokyo at the 2020 Games with this third Olympic gold medal. He set a new Olympic record in the Tokyo final for men’s skeet. Photo by Brittany Nelson

Hancock set a new Olympic record in Tokyo where he hit 59 of the 60 targets in the final. He also became the first skeet shooter to win three Olympic gold medals.

Just three years after Tokyo, Hancock is on his way to qualify for the next Olympic games in Paris.

If he qualifies for Paris, Hancock will have the opportunity to win two medals. For the first time ever, the Olympic games will host the event of Mixed Team Skeet where a team of one female and one male compete on a team together representing their county. Mixed team was introduced at the Tokyo Games for trap shooting.

“With our women’s program being the best in the world, as long as I do what I need to do, we have a really good chance at getting a medal,” said Hancock, an Eatonton Georgia native. “I am really excited about it.”

Hancock is currently tied for first place overall with Conner Prince in the trial’s selection process for Paris. His preparation for competitions like the trials doesn’t change despite the magnitude of the results.

“It is always the same,” said Hancock. “My expectations are perfection. That’s what I expect in practice, that’s what I expect in the competition. For me, it’s going through every day and trying to focus on little bits and pieces of myself. ‘What can I do perfect every time?’”

Hancock uses a mental checklist to ensure his process of perfection; a check list that has gotten smaller and smaller over the years.

“I know that if I accomplish this small check list, I will hit every target,” said Hancock. “I am just trying to check off that check list for each and every shot. That leads me to the best opportunity to succeed.”

His success has been apparent throughout his career and in the few years since Tokyo. In 2023 alone, he earned six medals internationally including his third Pan American Games Champion title. In 2024 he has already earned two international medals, both at the International Shooting Sports Federation World Cup in Rabat.

When Hancock is not busy winning medals, he is running his shooting range, North Lake Shooting Sports, which he opened in 2023.

Vincent Hancock competing at the 2023 Pan American Games where he earned gold. Photo by Joshua Schave

“I’m trying to find a way to pass on what has taken me out of the middle of nowhere Georgia to traveling and competing in 28 different countries now,” said Hancock, co-owner of the range. “(Traveling for competitions) has expanded my horizons and my understanding of different cultures. I want to be able to provide that opportunity for other kids.”

North Lake Shooting Sports is youth centric and has almost 500 kids shooting there weekly. Hancock coaches at the range along with a few other USA Shooting athletes including Katie Jacob and Tokyo bronze medalist Brian Burrows.

Hancock’s coaching has not only helped grow youth shooting sports but has improved his shooting game as well.

“I get to see what happens, especially with athletes I have worked with for long periods of time. They shoot very similarly to me,” said Hancock. “I have to diagnose them, and it helps me diagnose myself a lot faster too.”

This quad, which has been cut down to three years due to the delay of the 2020 Games, Hancock has stayed on the top of his game even in the midst of opening and running a range.

He will be competing in the U.S Olympic Trials- Shooting Shotgun part two this March in Tucson, Arizona at the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club. He will be looking to qualify in one of the two spots for the Paris Men’s Skeet team.

“I love every one of those (Olympic) experiences because they are each their own,” said Hancock. “I am looking forward to getting back to normalcy again and hopefully being able to make the team for Paris. If I do, if I am lucky enough to make my 5th team, I will have both my girls and my wife there and we are going to have a good time enjoying the Olympic experience.”