Colorado 4-H’s William Shaner wins Olympic gold

Will Shaner with his gold medal

Local Coloradan and former Colorado 4-H participant William Shaner won gold in Tokyo on Sunday in the men’s 10-meter air rifle with an Olympic-record 251.6 points, adding to Team USA’s second-day medal count.

Shaner grew up in Rifle, Colorado, where he was involved with Colorado 4-H shooting sports from 2009 – 2014. After getting his start with Garfield County 4-H at age 9, Shaner won multiple titles at the state and local level before moving on to shooting monthly preliminary tryout (PTO) events at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center until he could start qualifying for major matches. He won his first Junior Olympic Gold Medal at age 11 in 50m prone and made the Junior National Team at age 14 which propelled him into the international circuit.

At 20 years old, Shaner is the youngest U.S. Men’s Olympic Rifle Qualifier and the second-youngest men’s 10-meter air rifle Olympic champion of all time. He also won a World Cup title earlier this year. Shaner’s win marks Team USA’s first-ever gold in the men’s 10-meter event and was just 1.2 points less than the world record of 252.8 set in 2019 by Yu Haonan of China.

A role model and mentor

Driven by the pursuit of perfection and appreciation for his small-town roots, Shaner strives to be a role model for the next generation of up-and-coming shooting athletes.

Carla Farrand, CSU Extension Director in Garfield County, was involved in Shaner’s final year in Colorado 4-H in 2014.

“As Will got better and better and began winning 4-H shooting events, he would go down to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training facilities there and would take other 4-H members with him to practice and learn and have fun,” said Farrand.

After transitioning out of the 4-H program to pursue his Olympic dreams in Colorado Springs, Shaner continued to inspire kids in Garfield county.

“Even now, seven years later, we still have 4-H members going down on weekends to meet him and to practice,” said Farrand. “It’s incredible. The littles look up to them. It’s great for them to see their mentors do so well.”

Shooting sports is just one of many programs offered through Colorado 4-H. Serving 110,000 youth annually, Colorado 4-H provides experiences where young people learn by doing in hands-on projects in areas including health, science, agriculture and citizenship.

“The 4-H program teaches youth life skills in all programs and activities,” said Sam Lowry, Colorado 4-H Youth Development Specialist. “Life skills such as responsibility, leadership, goal setting, focus, teamwork, communication, safe handling of firearm & archery equipment, overcoming obstacles and perseverance. The leadership and life skills that are learned through the 4-H program prepare youth for careers and fulfilling lives as they become productive and contributing adults and positive influences in their communities.”

Learn more about Colorado 4-H at colorado4h.org