ELEY Spotlight - Alex Chichkov and Emil Milev

Over the last few weeks we have been highlighting Team USA shooters and today is our last in the series...

Alex Chichkov and Emil Milev are just a couple of the talented pistol shooters on the USA Shooting Team. Alex competes on the National Junior Team and Emil, a five-time Olympian on the National Team, have known each other for 12 years. The pair are Rapid Fire Pistol training partners...so who better to interview these men than each other?


Emil: You are 20 years old - exciting time of your life, with a lot of distractions. What or who motivates you to drop everything and practice, where do you find the drive?

Alex: There are two things that motivate me. The first is my desire to win and be the best. While the second is my family as they have always supported and pushed me to be great. Without both, I would not be the athlete I am today.


Emil: With two gold medals from the World Championship in Granada, anyone can say this is a strong ending of your junior career. How do you feel about entering the adult shooting next year? What are your expectations and do you feel ready for the rigor and the new challenge?

Alex: I feel a bit nervous but mostly excited. The open category gives me a new challenge to overcome and conquer. With enough training, anything is possible, even in the Open category. Having recovered from a recurring tendinitis issue, I feel more ready than I have ever been.


Emil: What was the first thing you felt, or the first thought when you realized you just became World Champion in Standard Pistol?

Alex: The first feeling was pure happiness and joy. I looked back and asked my Dad if I finished first and his immediate response brought me more joy than most other things. I felt proud of myself and all the hard work that went into making it possible.


Emil: Four months after your success in Spain, is there a change at how you see your wins there, compared to the first few days?

Alex: The first few days were happy days, winning the first medal helped to give me the confidence to win the second. Now that time has passed, I look at the medals as past achievements. I am looking forward to the next challenge rather than staying focused on the past.


Emil: Your score in Sport Pistol was way above second place score. What is the feeling to know you dominated everyone on the firing line at the World Championship?

Alex: As I finished shooting, I almost knew that I won.  It was a score much higher than anything I had shot so I knew the result would be good. When I looked at the results, my thoughts became a reality as I saw my success. I was ecstatic about the score; though it could have been slightly higher so that I could have gotten a World record, but the accomplishment was still amazing.


Emil: You are one of the most successful junior shooters in the U.S. What can you say to all young shooters, who are on the same path as you were just a few years back?

Alex: The most important thing is persistence in your training. You have to continue training even if you have more fun things to do, and in time, shooting will become the most fun. Training just one hour a day will keep improving you, two hours and you’re ahead of the competition. Three hours and you are in line to become the best. The results you attain are reflected by the amount of time you spend training.



Alex: What has driven you after all these years to continually compete? Are things easier or harder here in America in regards to training?

Emil: In the beginning, it was the curiosity and the drive to get better.  Later on for me, it became an addiction. Shooting was, and still is, a way of life for me. It is something I love, something I know and something I want. Since moving to the U.S. 10 years ago, things became different. It got harder in the sense that I can only do it after work, weekends, during vacations, at night, or early in the morning. Sometimes, I’m very tired, but it is a lot easier in a sense that I’m surrounded with people who are only trying to make it easier for me. My personal coach, Vladimir Chichkov (your dad), organizes all my schedules and training...Everyone from USA Shooting makes me feel needed, important and a part of something bigger.


Alex: After five different Olympic Games, has anything changed with how you view the sport? Do you see it in any different ways?

Emil: I treasure every memory from all five Olympics. It is something you don’t get used to in any way. I like shooting even more, and I want to do it more, on all levels. In the first four, I needed to perform on the highest level; it was a necessity since it was my job. London 2012, however, brought a different feeling - one of enjoyment and fulfillment. Now, I feel good about going into a match because I know that I am doing it for the love of the sport.


Alex: Being a Physical Education teacher and juggling family life with training, have you found any optimal way of doing all three on any given day?

Emil: I’m still looking for the best way to do that. Having 30 hour days would do it…probably. I’ve found that the best way it works for me is to set my priorities and follow them.  Also, it is good to have the understanding and support of my family and coaches, and to have the support of my colleagues in school.


Alex: Who has been your greatest motivation in the shooting sports?

Emil: There are a lot of shooters I admire and look upon for motivation. Ralph Schumann, Matt Emmons, Kim Rhode are all shooters who can make all the complexity of the sport look easy. But it’s not just the world-class athletes. It’s seeing the enthusiasm of beginner shooters and the excitement of winning their first competition.


Alex: What is your formula for becoming a successful shooter?

Emil: Learn from your mistakes. Every mistake is a lesson, and if the lesson is learned, it will make me a better shooter. Winning is great, but not winning has its purpose. Have fun, every second of practice, match, and a day off. This helps me concentrate better and makes it easier to handle the stress of a competition.


Alex: What about the U.S. do you prefer over Bulgaria? What type of environment do you think is best for a top level athlete?

Emil: I like the level of support I receive here. I feel like everyone around me genuinely wants me to succeed. It makes me feel like a part of a team. Also, being amateur feels great! I’m looking forward to a good practice, small or big competition, or even just talking about the sport...There are positives on both sides. There are great athletes in both places. Personally, I prefer living the way I do now. It is not easy, there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome every day, but in the end I know I will enjoy shooting.


Many thanks to Jessica Delos Reyes from USA shooting for this news item.

Read our previous post on Michael McPhail here.

Read our previous post on Amy Sowash here.

Read our previous post on Michael Tagliapietra here.