Junior Cadet James Hart was at a Home Depot in his hometown of Oak Harbor, Washington, when he received an email from Craig Kozeniesky, the CEO of USA Shooting, inviting him to compete in the 2023 International Shooting Sports Federation Junior World Championships in Changwon, Republic of Korea. He spent 10 minutes in an excited daze before calling his parents to report the good news. As reality set in, Hart, who had never been out of the country before, realized that he had less than a month to procure a passport.
After a 12-hour flight from Seattle to Seoul, it was a short journey to Changwon. Hart arrived on July 11, a week and a half before he was set to compete in the 50m Rifle Prone Men Junior Individual and the 50m Rifle 3 Positions Men Junior Qualification.
With more than six years of rifle team experience under his belt, Hart had placed 6th nationally for USA Shooting, qualifying him for the world championships. As a newcomer to the international stage, Hart was under pressure. “It was a mental challenge, but I was able to get in my zen mode,” he said. “You can really see the coaching coming through. I was able to see progress in each 10-shot series—that was huge for me.”
To Hart, it was more than just a personal victory to have arrived at such a prestigious level of competition. “This was one of those eye-opening moments where I realized I’m not here just to compete, but to represent who I am, and a lot of that is shaped by being a cadet at The Citadel,” said Hart. “I was upholding higher standards for myself while I was there because I knew that I was representing The Citadel and what it stands for.”
Hart, whose airfare and lodging for the trip were generously funded by the Athletic Department, placed 30th and 32nd in the two events he competed in, and he’s excited to bring back the lessons he learned to the rifle team. “The biggest thing that I took away from this experience was witnessing the high level of dedication and commitment to the sport that every single person there showed,” said Hart. “They’re 100% committed, and they’re not letting anything distract them.”