St. Louis, Missouri
After arriving on the sandy shores of Miami, Florida, soon to be NRA Certified Instructor
Gabby Franco found herself waist deep in guns. In an effort to immerse herself in the firearms industry, she spent the next six years traveling from trainers to ranges to shops and manufacturers. Then there was a call from home.
"My brother called from Venezuela," she started. "They were playing Season 1 of Top Shot down there and he said, 'Gabby you have to apply!' I was like … a tv show? Yea, right, me on television ... okay."
With less then a head full of steam, she emailed her background and a picture. As luck would have it — they called her right up.
"We like your email, but you need to send in an application and video. So I sent in the information. I was invited to the tryouts and well, you see, I made the show!"
While in St. Louis for the 2012 NRA Convention, we located Top Shot Season 4 runner-up Greg Littlejohn. Greg was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk about a variety of things. With all that happens here at the NRA, a majority of the material from that meeting has been sitting in the to-do pile. No more.
St. Louis, Missouri -
"The show was a chance to reach out to the public and jump in to the professional (shooting market)."
That's how Gregory Littlejohn viewed his time on History Channel's Top Shot. Coming in second to California's Chris Cheng, Littlejohn's persona on the show at times appeared aloof before turning into the hard nosed competitor who withstood three elimination challenges. While he might not be all that happy with his public perception, he has found a silver lining in the exposure.
"I'm sure there's a hundred people in this convention hall that could outshoot me in a variety of firearms," said Littlejohn. "But I was lucky enough to get appear on Top Shot. So even if I'm not the best shooter in the world, there are opportunities now available that were unavailable before."
Top Shot Olympian Gabby Franco - photo courtesy of Gabby
Gabriela “Gabby” Franco was a world-class shooter before stepping on stage for Season 4 of History Channel's Top Shot
. As a member of Venezuela's international pistol team, she developed a perseverance that would ultimately land her here in the United States.
The fortunes of Gabby Franco turned in the summer of 2000. She had just competed in the Olympic Games. Traveled halfway across the world to Australia. While the whirlwind of excitement and possibilities resulted in an almost unparalleled collection of memories, she would go home without a medal.
Previous efforts on the international stage always appeared to top out at Silver. Taking what she learned during her years of training, and what she witnessed during the weeks of olympic excellence in Sydney, Gabby took the next step in her development. Everything — the year of dry firing, the time away from family, the countless hours of sacrifice — was about to pay off.
Columbia, Missouri - There's nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. That's especially true when it comes to the MidwayUSA & NRA Bianchi Cup's Celebrity Pro-Am Event. Divided into four primary categories, the Pro-Am is a mixture of celebrities, sponsors, press and professional shooters.
This year, the Celebrity match started as Cowboy Mounted Action Shooting Champion Kenda Lenseigne stood side by side with actor Marshall Teague. Kenda, last year's top celebrity shooter, dispatched Teague for a chance to defend her 2011 title.
Her opponent in the final round would be Top Shot's Iain Harrison. Harrison finished ahead Chuck's Mark Christopher Lawrence in the opening round and appeared to be in perfect position to stage an upset. Unfortunately for Iain, Kenda was a little quicker on the trigger as she won her 4th consecutive Celebrity Pro-Am title.
Top Shot's Gabby Franco tries out a scope at the NRA Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis, Missouri - Most of the world will assemble in their living rooms this summer to watch world class athletes compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. Men and women who sacrificed time, sweat and family to be the best in their field. People like Gabby Franco.
“I was eighteen and so excited,” Gabby smiled. “It was like a dream come true.”
California IT guy Chris Cheng takes Top Shot Season 4 finale
Chris Cheng's ascension to Top Shot was not without obstacles. Unassuming, untrained and understated in almost every aspect of the competition, he was not a popular choice when the show began. Eleven shows later, he stood alongside a Civil War Re-enactor, a Federal Officer and a Triple Nickel Award Winner … things didn't look good for the IT guy.
Though a professional shooting contract and a hundred thousand dollars waited for the winner, the four worked together to ensure that each were at the top of their game.
"What was really great was how much Greg, Gary, Augie, and I were helping each out, spotting for each other, giving each other tips and general observations on how we were shooting," explained Cheng. "Going up against the best is what I think competitive people want to experience. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you fall short, but either way you grow from the experience and figure out how to win the next time around."
Top Shot Champ Chris Cheng shares his competition experience
Mission Viejo, California -
The first challenge during Season 4 of Top Shot came before the first commercial break. That competition sent young Forrest and Craig the chemist home and broke the others into teams of two. The eventual champion, California's Chris Cheng, landed on Team Red.
In what looked like a collection of characters from the Island of Misfit Toys, Team Red's performance went from dominant to dotty in the first two shows. Each stage, success and failure, had a profound affect on the competitors.
"When we pulled off a win in the first team challenge, I think we were all having a lot of fun," said Cheng. "It grounded us when we lost Keith in the second team challenge. It was terrible losing a team member."
Chris Cheng during Top Shot - Photo courtesy of History
Rising from the ranks of Nerd Herd to Sharp Shooters, California's Chris Cheng took Season 4 by storm to claim the title of Top Shot. His path, like that of Season 3's Dustin Ellermann, was an unlikely one. Claiming no more then the title of firearms enthusiast, he managed a path through the thickets of trained tacticians to take History Channel's top prize.
"I went to UCLA for electrical engineering," said Cheng. "Eventually I switched to Political Science with a focus on a future career in politics. After grad school, I circled back to my original love and landed a technology job through a friend whose cousin worked in Silicon Valley."
His experience behind the trigger, however, started way before college. It was his father, at the ripe old age of six, who first brought Chris to the range to step behind a Ruger .22 — scattered as the visits were.
We will have a complete rundown of Top Shot soon, as well as a talk with Cheng, but for now … here are five quick thoughts on the final episode of the History Channel's blockbuster:
- First elimination challenge called for competitors to take a Winchester '73 to two six level shooting trees. Between the four men left, I thought Augie and Greg would surely send Chris and Gary to the shoot off. As luck would have it, the exact opposite happened.
- The shooting gallery challenge was a complete snoozefest. Going into the final round, Chris Cheng had the finals in the bag after nailing a mere TWO shots. Greg and Gary had zippo. With one left to go, Gary put a jar of maraschino cherries at 35 feet and misses. Greg nails it — his sixth successful elimination challenge — and heads into the finals.
- Heading into the finals, we had an IT geek and a well-trained, seasoned military firearms instructor. Was there really ever a question as to who would come out on top?
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