To say Corey Cogdell has trained her entire life to become one of the world’s best shooters would be a lie. In fact, she had to wait all the way until her second birthday before she could even hold a gun.
“When she was a year and a half, Corey was going, ‘Daddy, I want to shoot,’” recalled her father, Dick, during an interview on Monday, May 21 — one day after his daughter, 25, qualified for her second Summer Olympics in trap shooting.
Corey’s older sister, Tanis, was already shooting a small kids’ rifle at the time, and Corey desperately wanted to join her. But Dick said he wouldn’t let Corey hold a gun until she turned two.
When the big day finally arrived, Corey blew out her candles with a grin. Then Dick asked her what she’d wished for.
“Shoot, Daddy,” she said. “Shoot.”
Dick couldn’t hold her back any longer.
“I said, ‘Let’s go,’” he said.
Since that day, Corey, now 25, has rarely been without a gun in her hands. She won a bronze medal in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics, and qualified for her second Games by winning the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday, May 20, in Tucson, Ariz.
After her most recent victory, Corey said the first thing she did was call her dad in Eagle River.
“My dad was so excited,” she said. “He let out a big holler.”
That’s no surprise. Corey said her father is by far her biggest fan.
“He wants it as much for me as I want it for myself,” she said.
For the Cogdell’s, Corey’s ascent to the highest levels of her sport has been a family affair from the beginning. The girls’ mom, Wendy, was killed in 1996 after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle, leaving Dick to raise two young girls on his own.
But rather than letting the tragedy tear the family apart, Dick said it forced he and his girls closer together.
“From that day on I have been totally blessed,” he said.
Tanis graduated from high school at just 15 and went on to become a nurse. Corey now trains year-round at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I can’t even tell you how proud of them I am,” Dick said.
Corey honed her skills at the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park in Chugiak, where she and her family spent countless hours blasting away at clay pigeons.
“I spent a lot of time at Birchwood,” she said.
She said she would encourage parents who want to get their kids into shooting sports to start as early as possible.
“Get them started as soon as they can hold a firearm and operate it safely,” she said.
After winning in Tucson, she said all the early training she received in the sport was key to her rapid development.
“You learn so much when you’re in your early teen years,” she said.
Dick said he’s not surprised Corey is back on the Olympic team. He said his daughter works incredibly hard at her sport, going so far as to spend several thousand dollars of her own money so she could practice for weeks in Tucson in advance of the trials.
“Corey is one of those young ladies, I don’t care what it is, if she decides she wants to do it, she can do it,” he said.
Now an Olympic veteran, Corey said she hopes to bring back gold this summer from London.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to get an opportunity to go back and represent my country and represent my hometown and my family and hopefully win the gold medal,” she said.
With a World Cup victory already under her belt this season, Corey said she think she has a legitimate shot at gold.
“I feel good about London,” she said. “I really have worked hard in the past three years to improve my technique and my mental game.”
No matter how his daughter does this time around, Dick Cogdell said he’ll be proud of Corey’s accomplishments. And, he said, he thinks she has a bright future as an inspirational voice for other youngsters hoping to achieve lofty goals.
“She just has this gift to bring young people,” he said. “She has one helluva story to talk about.”
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]