The Memphis Rifle Team had one of their own chosen to go to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
Alison Weisz, the team's graduate assistant found the time and put forth the effort to be an Olympian. Weisz made the United States Olympic Team with an air rifle and will compete in the Women's 10-meter Rifle and the 10-meter Mixed Team Rifle.
"I am very excited," Weisz said. "I am really just honored and blessed to be able to have the opportunity to go and represent our country."
Weisz will be headed to Japan in a few months, but her journey to the Olympics involved many miles and many years.
Weisz was born in Rapid City, South Dakota. At the age of three, her family moved to a town called Belgrade in western Montana. Weisz said when she was nine years old, she took home a flyer for a firearm safety and education program and her parents enrolled her.
"We weren't hunters, and we didn't own firearms," Weisz said. "They thought that just in the event that I was over at somebody else's house and there was one out I needed to know how to act around it."
Weisz was signed up for the course and showed up the first night. What her parents did not know was there was also competitive target BB gun shooting. Weisz had the opportunity to use a BB gun at the age of nine. She went through the duration of the course and opened a gateway to her future.
"I fell in love with it immediately," Weisz said. "I fell in love with the community, friends, teammates, competitors and the sport."
Weisz stuck with the sport and progressed from a BB gun to an air rifle and then to a .22 rifle. She competed in several matches across the Unites States and graduated high school in 2013. Weisz demonstrated significant talent and gained attention from a mid-south college in Oxford. Weisz took an official visit to the University of Mississippi and committed.
"Ole Miss was one of the first ones to talk to me in person," Weisz said. "It has always kind of resonated a lot with me. I took the official visit and fell in love with it when I was there."
Weisz pursued a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at Ole Miss, and she graduated four years later.
Weisz earned her degree and applied for an internship with the Ole Miss graduate program. Weisz was the first alternate to the program and was not accepted to her Alma mater. Weisz found another opening and moved to Cleveland, Mississippi, and began an internship at Delta State University.
"It was a blessing in disguise," Weisz said. "It gave me the opportunity to come (to Memphis) and get my graduate degree a couple years later."
Weisz worked 1,200 unpaid hours in a hospital doing clinical and food service rotation. Weisz worked most often at the Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Mississippi.
During this time, Weisz no longer had a range to train at after graduating from Ole Miss. Weisz said she resorted to holding and dry firing in her house against the wall. She also held a part-time job waiting tables at a nearby family restaurant called Airport Grocery. Weisz said the owners allowed her to bring her air rifle to the restaurant to practice.
"Thankfully my employers at the restaurant were super incredible and let me use their shop in the back," Weisz said. "On breaks I was able to go clock out and go practice holding and stuff there because I was still trying to train for the world championships."
Weisz said some of her days consisted of working a full day of internship hours and then getting scheduled later that night at the restaurant. Whatever free time she had was used to the fullest, and she would sometimes be training on her lunch break or taking naps in her car. Weisz said training was the most difficult during that time.
"It was definitely crazy," Weisz said. "It was much crazier than I was expecting it to be. It was absurd now that I say that out loud."
Weisz had called three different places home in three years and said she finished the internship and moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weisz lived in Colorado and made her first U.S. National team and the World Championship team in 2017. Weisz said the days became much easier after that.
"It was just wake up and spend the day training." Weisz said. "Training was my only job."
Weisz said she lived in Colorado Springs for about a year and a job at Memphis opened. Weisz then chose to pursue a master's degree and decided to get back into NCAA rifle. Weisz took the job and came to the University of Memphis.
Weisz committed to coaching the rifle team as a graduate assistant. Weisz said she shows up to the team's practices at six in the morning every day. The team is guided by her and her knowledge. There are not any other hired coaching staff other than head coach Dan Hermsmeier or herself. Weisz said she connects with the athletes because she knows how difficult it can get.
"I was in their place once," Weisz said. "I know how it is, what is it like going through all of the motions, the homework, the courses all of it. I know how stressful it can get."
Hermsmeier said Weisz would lead by example and the other athletes would follow her craft.
"She loves being here at Memphis and really enjoys working with the athletes," Hermsmeier said. "She is a natural leader and a natural coach, and she has a very bright future in this sport."
All six members of the rifle team said they see Weisz as a mentor and a coach. Senior Levi Clark said Weisz helps the team control their mindset and focus to their best ability.
"She has such a wealth of knowledge," Clark said. "Her passion for the sport pushes us. Everything she contributes, not just the knowledge, but her attitude just rubs off on you."
Although Weisz cannot compete with the team, she said she has attempted to lead them in any way she can.
"It is super motivating," Weisz said. "I want to be there for them as much as I can and try to impact their lives a little bit."
When the team's practice concluded, Weisz said she would stay after and practice at the range alone all-season. In doing this, Weisz gained the practice she needed to hone her skills.
Weisz is not headed to Tokyo immediately. By making the Olympic Games, she will compete in a World Cup every month and it will take her across Asia. Weisz competed in the 2019 Pan-American games and won gold.
Hermsmeier said he believed hiring Wiesz was a great choice from the beginning and he knew she would push herself to being greater.
"Her dream of making the Olympics is her motivation,"Hermsmeier said. "She talked about it all the time. She knew she had a chance, so she gave it everything she had."
The first gold medal won in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games was won by a woman in rifle on the United States team. Virginia Thrasher won it four years ago and now Weisz will get the opportunity to compete.
"I do not think anything is off the table as far as being able to medal," Weisz said.
It is Weisz's first appearance in the Olympics. Weisz said she is eager to represent all of those before her as she transitions for a long five months of traveling, training and preparing for her big moment. Wiesz is moving to Colorado Springs first to begin the first step.