Editor’s Note: Today’s feature was submitted by USA Shooting’s Kevin Neuendorf. It points out -once again- that being fierce competitors doesn’t mean not helping your fellow shooters.
One thing that shooting sports enthusiasts value about their sport is the sense of community and the family-like bonds that make a day at the range seem like a family reunion. Proof of such has certainly been on full display last week during the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup taking place in Fort Benning, Georgia.
At a match featuring 350 competitors from 53 different countries, you expect a few hiccups. When athletes arrive without their guns to a shooting competition then you have problems. But after seven countries encountered such fate upon arrival into the United States, friends came to their aid so athletes could shoot the match and, like what happened Thursday, also earn a coveted World Cup gold medal in the process.
The biggest show of friendship has been from long-time USA Shooting coach Vladimir Chichkov, whose compassion for the sport and for the athletes was further revealed last week by his outpouring of support to athletes in need. The majority of athletes competing in Women’s Sport Pistol and Rapid Fire Pistol already shoot Pardini pistols, for which Chichkov is an American supplier of the showcase competition guns. So, his decision to help had nothing to do with business and everything to do with being human.
Pardini was founded in the early 1980s by Giampiero Pardini, one of the most prominent marksmen in Italian target shooting. Big-hearted by nature, Chichkov has long stood out for his passion for Olympic-style pistol shooting and his willingness to sacrifice profit to do what was right for the sport he loves and the athletes he supports. It’s the Pardini way sealed with a Chichkov sense of duty.
Thus, when pistol athletes show up to a World Cup in your country lacking the very tool they need to compete, you better believe Chichkov would do everything he could to make sure they had what they would need to somehow compete. He called up his friends and those he coached and borrowed more than 15 pistols and brought them to Fort Benning from his home in Tampa, Florida.
“USA Shooting is the host of the World Cup and when some of our guests are misfortunate to not receive their competition equipment, it is our obligation to do everything in our power to help them,” Chichkov said. “This is what hospitality is. In this sport, we are not just competitors, but more importantly friends. This is what friends do.”
He was also quick to point out that he wasn’t alone in his efforts and thanked the ISSF, USA Shooting, and all the volunteers for their show of support as well. His son, Alex, and current Rapid Fire Pistol U.S. Champion Keith Sanderson, as well as six-time Olympian and current Ohio State University pistol coach Emil Milev all helped support by loaning their own personal pistols as well. Others from the shooting community also cametogether in a show of support including sponsors like Walther and USA Shooting’s National Rifle Coach Jason Parker
“He’s always been the type of man wanting to support the shooting community and thinking about the broader picture,” said Milev, who was coached by Chichkov and was a former business partner as well. “It’s incredible to make this possible and I talked to a lot of shooters who had no chance before he stepped in. His only goal is making the sport better and his generosity is doing just that.”
The moment that makes all that work worth it? When 45-year-old pistol legend Maria Grozdeva claims the 14th World Cup gold medal of her career with a gun you, as a former Bulgarian, helped supply her with last Thursday. Grozdeva is President of the Bulgarian Shooting Union and she couldn’t have been more thankful for the generosity during her post-match interview.
“All of the success here, I owe it to Vladimir because without a gun, this result is not possible,” said Grozdeva. “This is exactly who this man has come to be. He’s just a good man and he loves shooting.”