Koenig hits gold with rifle
By Steve Wright
Great Outdoor Games staff

RENO, Nev. — An exorcism took place in the rifle competition at ESPN's Great Outdoor Games Saturday. Doug Koenig performed the ceremony with his .22 caliber rifle.

Doug Koenig, Rifle final
Doug Koenig lifts his fist in triumph moments after realizing that he won the gold medal in the Rifle event.
Koenig, a 34-year-old professional shooter from Albertis, Pa., finished as the silver medalist in the rifle competition in the previous three Outdoor Games. In the last two, he finished second to Jerry Miculek of Princeton, La.

Saturday, Koenig and Miculek met in the semifinals. This time Koenig needed only 18 seconds and 16 shots to hit 14 targets and beat Miculek.

"That's the run I've been wanting to have against Jerry for a few years," Koenig said. "I knew I needed to exorcise the demon of Jerry."

But that feat earned Koenig only a matchup with his best friend, Carl Bernosky, for a shot at the gold medal. In a classic contest, finishing with a mind game on the dueling tree, Koenig broke through a personal barrier to finally win a gold medal.

"I love Carl like a brother," said a beaming Koenig. "We are the best of friends. If I can't win, I want him to win."

In the rifle competition, each competitor must hit a series of 10 horizontal targets at 60 yards before moving on to the dueling tree, where there are four targets placed vertically at 50 yards. If both competitors have hit the 10 horizontal targets, they can choose to shoot at their own targets on the dueling tree, or hit their opponent's targets if he is about to close out the match. If you reverse any of your opponent's targets on the dueling tree, he must hit them again.

Koenig and Bernosky, who is from Ashland, Pa., took turns knocking each other's targets back on the dueling tree before Koenig made his gold medal run.

"I thought that it was now or never," Koenig said. "I knew it was going to be all over, one way or the other."

Koenig made a final run up his dueling tree to complete the match in 43 seconds.

In the bronze medal match, Mike Cumming of Altoona, Pa., made it a Keystone State sweep of the medals by defeating Miculek in 30 seconds. For Cumming, it was a repeat of his 2001 performance when he also won a bronze.

For Miculek, who had won the last two rifle gold medals, fourth place was less than pleasant.

"I'm not where I would like to be physically right now," said Miculek, who explained that he was taking antibiotics for a puncture wound in his left hand. "But Doug shot an excellent run, especially in these conditions. He shot me down really quick. That's what competition is all about."

A constantly shifting wind equally hampered all the competitors and made the times a bit longer than normal, with the exception of Koenig's 18-second closeout of Miculek.

Even Koenig admitted he was shocked by that time, saying, "That's pretty incredible in this wind. I knew it was going to be difficult today."

And the gold medal was bittersweet. Bernosky and Koenig train together, so they know each other's styles as well as being best friends.

"Personally, I'd rather face anybody but Doug," Bernosky said. "We know each other so well. And I knew at some point one of us was going to think, 'I'm going for it.'"

Saturday, Koenig not only thought that but accomplished it, exorcising a demon along the way.

Final Results — Rifle

1. Doug Koenig, Alburtis, Pa.
2. Carl Bernosky , Ashland, Pa.
3. Mike Cumming, Altoona, Pa.
4. Jerry Miculek, Princeton, La.
5. Vince Cumming, Altoona, Pa.
6. Bruce Piatt, Montvale, N.J.
7. Randy Hollowbush, Topton, Pa.
7. Randy Hendrix, Clemmons, N.C.
9. Bob Maples, Godfrey, Ill.
9. Ron Weaver, Odessa, Texas.
11. Richard Aitken, Colorado Springs, Colo.
12. Keith Brown, Greensboro, N.C.
13. Jackie Caudle, Gadsden, Ala.
13. Jim Clark Jr., Princeton, La.
13. Don Clark, Hollidaysburg, Pa.
16. Richard Young, Flatonia, Texas