Olympic shooter who overcame impairment
Collyn Loper is just a regular teen, except for being blind in one eye and a top trapshooter.
INDIAN SPRINGS, ALA.
She leads an ordinary teenager's life, filled with Kiss concerts and new driving privileges. Her boyfriend plays in a band and recently got his lip pierced, much to her father's chagrin. She smears cherry-red nail polish on her fingers and toes, and spends way too much time on the phone with her best friend, Lauren.Skip to next paragraph
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Then there's that gun safe in the basement. The poster of gun-toting Annie Oakley in her room, and her intimate knowledge of Italian gunmakers.
Collyn Loper is not so ordinary after all. Since age 10, she's had a shotgun in her hands and dreams of the Olympics in her head. Now, seven years later, she's in Athens to compete as the youngest member of the United States' shooting team.
If her age doesn't give her away when she steps onto the range in the women's trap Monday, the "goofy glasses" will. The right lens of Collyn's shooting glasses is blacked out entirely. That's the eye that has been blind since birth.
"I've had people come up to me and ask, 'Where can I get sunglasses like that?' " she chuckles. "Other people ask me, 'Do you have an eye dominance problem?' I say, 'Yeah, a big one.' "
While it may seem like a major impediment in any sport, Collyn just shrugs it off. "They way I look at it, I'm equal to everyone else."
Actually, for most of her shooting career, she has been better than everyone else. Her achievements include a bronze medal at the Junior Olympics; a gold medal at the Pam Am Games; and a place on this summer's Olympic team by beating out an Army markswoman nearly twice her age.
After Collyn spent much of her childhood "running into things," her father, Brian, pondered the sports that required little depth perception. He also realized that his daughter could see things better when they were moving away from her. So one day when she was 8 years old, he took her into the backyard, showed her how to hold a BB gun with her left hand instead of her dominant right, and began throwing Frisbees into the air.
Amazingly, the pellets began pouncing off - and from that moment on, Collyn was by her dad's side whenever he would go to the shooting range. Soon she learned to handle a shotgun and was beating out many of the older men, including her own father.
"The first time she held a gun, she knew what to do. She could hold the gun, swing the gun. She had the form and ability," says Mr. Loper, himself an avid hunter and fisherman.
As she progressed, the two drove every weekend to Atlanta to practice at the now-closed Olympic range. There she caught the eye of a shooting coach and soon began traveling to competitions around the world - and winning them.
But she was fighting an uphill battle at school, where she is an honor student. Classmates didn't know what trapshooting was, and some thought she was shooting real "birds" (they're clay targets launched into the air). Moreover, teachers were skeptical of her missed classes, and the administration didn't take her sport seriously.