Once the pre-match for the officials and sponsors had been completed, the 1000+ competitors gathered at the Lakeland Center in Polk County, Florida for the opening ceremonies complete with fireworks, water-skiing demonstrations, classic cars and an opportunity to meet up with old friends and new ones from across the globe. The main match ran for six days, with each competitor shooting for five days with a day off somewhere along the way and was hosted at Frank Garcia's Universal Shooting Academy in Frostproof, Florida.
LiveShots was providing coverage of the main match, throughout the week over 37,500 visitors were able to watch the match live on the internet. Photographs were also posted online at the end of each day.
After parking across the street the competitors had the option of riding a shuttle/trailer the hundred yards or so to the range entrance or just walking there. The Polk Country Sheriff's department was out in force to provide assistance and security for all the parked cars and to ensure that only authorized persons had access to the event. Upon entering the range the competitors walked around a small lake and past a large vendor area to the main-strip where the majority of the stages were arrayed to the left and right. The past two years have seen extensive improvements to this facility, solid wooden covered areas were in abundance along with permanent safety areas so competitors work on their firearms and make any repairs or adjustments that were required. Towards the end of the strip were the final six stages of the match fanned out between some large steel containers.
With most of the berms facing to the East and West and the late time of year, it was obvious that the sun was going to be an issue first thing in the morning and to a lesser degree toward the end of the day. The high humidity caused more smoke than was normal from uncompensated guns and that combined with a low sun position caused a few headaches for competitors as some targets vanished in a haze of excessive gun smoke and sunlight. While they could not always see the targets, competitors and spectators alike could enjoy the tremendous artwork that adorned many of the stages. All the artwork was provided by artistic family Dick, Ben & Elye Alexander and included a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sasquatch, river boats, even one that bore a striking resemblance to Henning Wallgren.
As expected at such a large contest there were a number of 'Super Squads' which are typically made up of National teams that placed highest at the previous World Championship, this led to an unusual situation for Eric Grauffel whose French Production team did not finish well three years ago so he was not squadded with the other top contenders.
The Live coverage of the match began with the top Open teams as they engaged Stages 7-12 on their first day. All eyes were on Team USA as the hottest contest was likely to be between the team-mates, Shane Coley, Max Michel, Chris Tilley and KC Eusebio who had recently parted ways with Glock USA and was now shooting an old Caspian framed LimCat instead of his Glock. KC had suffered from some equipment issues over the past couple of years and that frustration probably led to the split, it was good news for the USA as equipment issues at a World Shoot would affect not only the competitor but the entire team. Team USA was joined by the Open teams of Australia, France and the Czech Republic which included in its line-up, Zdenek Henes who was the current Modified World Champion but following that division's removal from IPSC had switched over to Open.
The first members of the squad had arrived before the sun had risen and as the daylight swept away the gloom the stage materialized out of the dawn mist to reveal the large monument from which Stage 7 took its name. This was the largest stage of the day; IPSC subscribes to the 3-2-1 guide for stages at a World Shoot, this equates to three small stages, two medium and one large one, this methodology provides for a wider variety of shooting challenges than are normally seen in the United States. The stages themselves were a solid blend of speed and accuracy with Stages averaging Hit Factors anywhere from 3 to 8 with only a few at 10 or higher.
With so many divisions and categories it was impossible to cover the entire match, it would take four or more reporters to cover and event of this size which is why there is little mention of the other category winners.
Over half a million rounds were fired during this competition by the hundreds of competitors who travelled from all across the globe to participate in the most prestigious match that has ever been held in the United States. The match was exceptionally well run and the organizers are owed a huge 'thank you' for their tireless efforts.
As for the competitors, many of them suffered from the agony of defeat, those missed targets and opportunities, the gun malfunctions, the unforced errors and the lapses of concentration. They will obsess about these things, but they will pick themselves up and begin the preparations for France in 2017, determined to improve and meet their full potential. And for some of our top Junior shooters such as Jacob Hetherington and Kincaid Ross that potential will most likely be on the podium.
For the winners there is the Rush of adrenaline and achievement that comes with that Gold medal, for some it may be the first of many or one of many already won, for others this is their one moment..., their one title that they will never reproduce but that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.