ELEY Spotlight - IPC shooter Michael Tagliapietra

Over the next few weeks ELEY will be highlighting some of the athletes on Team USA before we launch a very special competition... This week our spotlight s on United States IPC Pistol shooter Michael Tagliapietra.

There is something just cool about United States Paralympic Pistol shooter Michael Tagliapietra. First, go ahead and accidentally butcher the pronunciation of his name. “Ta-li-a-pi-eh-tra” he’ll correct you in a perfect Italian accent; his three forefingers and thumb pinched together a la the pronunciation of the name of a fine wine or a young Marlon Brando. If things get awkward, he quotes Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride.” Few things seem to faze this guy – even his path to a Paralympic dream.

USA-Shooting-ELEY-Shooter-Michael-Tagliapietra-900Photo credit: USA shooting.

Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wis.) was introduced to pistol shooting originally by his boss, but just a few years later in 2000, he put his firearm away.

In 2003, Tagliapietra was in a single-vehicle accident that paralysed him from his mid-back down. Several years after the accident, in December 2011 he tried his hand at shooting once again at the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club in Phoenix, Arizona, with a specific goal in mind...

“I realised I wouldn’t be a Paralympic wheelchair racer and picked up shooting again since I had done it before - it wasn’t going to take me years and years to reach a certain level and I thought I could more quickly become good at it, but then I didn’t realize how difficult air pistol was” he said. “I got pretty lucky stumbling into the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club and having no idea who was there or anything like that. Don Plant – whose son used to be (an Olympic Training Center resident athlete),  let me use a pistol and then (U.S. National Team member) John Zurek comes up to me and tells me about shooting air pistol and I was like ‘He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.’ Ruby Fox was there, Brenda Silva was there and everyone was really very helpful.”

Blessed with one of the best chance meetings for a new shooter, Tagliapietra accompanied Zurek to Anniston, Ala. later that month to the Olympic Trials where Zurek introduced Tagliapietra to Paralympic National Coach Bob Foth.

“I was so naïve in thinking ‘Yeah, if I shoot well here, I’ll make the team.’ Absolutely not,” Tagliapietra said. “You need quota slots, you need MQSs… Bob sat behind me the whole time. I was nervous because out of the corner of my eye I could see his silver hair and thought ‘he’s watching me!’ No pressure at all,” he said, sarcastically. “Just try and shoot well to impress this guy I thought, but I think what he told me much later on was that just the way I approached the match impressed him. He doesn’t look for you to come out and shoot these great scores right away, but someone who has good strategy to a match and is determined. “

In November 2012 Tagliapietra moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to train full time. Now a member of the U.S. National Paralympic Team, Tagliapietra made three Pistol Finals at the 2014 IPC World Cup in Fort Benning, Georgia. Later that year while shooting in the P3 (25m Mixed Sport Pistol) event at the IPC World Championships in 2014, Tagliapietra earned a valuable Paralympic quota spot for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Tagliapietra’s favorite quote by Ella Wheeler Wilcox speaks to his goals of making it to and winning on the biggest stage for a Paralympic shooter: “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”


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