“I am NOT hearing that Italian National Anthem today.”
In an exclusive interview with SportsEvents Magazine, Amber English opens up about early beginnings, being “late to the game,” and all that is to come.
If you passed by Amber English on the street, or in this case, Zoom’s video chatting feature, the only assumption you would be able to make is that she is in the military.
English is adorned with her finest browns and greens complete with badges and regalia, a slicked back bun, and a beaming smile. You see, English, at the time of our interview, was a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Marksmanship Unit for the United States and was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Behind her is a pristine yet cozy home with unlit sconces on the wall and the bright sunlight of the afternoon peeping in the window.
“My name is Amber English, and I am originally from Colorado Springs in Colorado. Currently I am 31 years old, serve as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Marksmanship Unit, won a gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and am an avid outdoorsman.”
Wanting to know more, I asked English how she got her start. This begins a long and captivating story that gave me goosebumps, and a great amount of respect for her.
English began her athletic career as a small six-year-old girl who was born into a competitive family. Her father and uncle were both Olympians, and her brother and cousins were always around. Since her father was a marksman as well, English grew up shooting targets in her free time.
“At that point in my life I was just doing it for fun like any normal six-year-old would think about a new hobby. I was very, very bad, but kept up with it as a way to pass the time when I was bored.”
However, English did not stay bored for long. She soon developed a love for the sport of gymnastics, becoming an elite level six athlete in early high school.
“I had gotten to a point where my body would hurt all of the time. That made me step back and think, “Do I really want to do this? Is this a career option for me?” I soon settled on the fact that, “No, this was not a career option for me.”
“After my gymnastics career had taken a pause, I switched over to trampoline and tumbling during my last few years of school. It was similar to gymnastics, but different enough to where my body was no longer in pain 24/7.”
After finishing college at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, English decided her next career move.
“I became a paramedic and I loved everything about it. I think this led me to the place that would change my life forever.”
During her time as a paramedic, English started training as a marksman—and this time, for real. She started out learning proper techniques for shooting both a rifle and a pistol from her cousin, but eventually switched to shotgun—the rest was history.
“While I was training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs I met several people who served in the Army for their Marksman Unit. Once I was chosen for the 2016 Olympics in Rio as an alternate, I decided to go for it. It was something that I had honestly been thinking about for quite a while, and so I thought—you know—what better time to go for this than now.”
Being in gymnastics as a girl also came back around to help English.
“In gymnastics you are very disciplined. You learn the combination between body and mind, how to push yourself, and the lesson that you can do what you set your mind to. You also have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that was something I mainly took with me.”
Even though English remained in the Army as an active, that did not stop her from training to achieve her Olympic dream. In 2020, English was named to the 2020 United States Women’s Shooting Team, and her dreams of becoming an Olympian were becoming a reality.
“When I was named to the team, it was an amazing feeling. I was prepared, and I was ready. On the way to Japan, it was a surreal feeling. We had been waiting for so long to finally be going to the Olympics after they got cancelled in 2020 that we kept saying, “is this really happening?” over and over again. To be honest it was hard being exciting at first, but once we got off the plane it set in—I was at the Olympics.”
During the gold medal event, English shot all of the targets she needed to advance her to the final round.
“At the end it was me and another girl named Diana Bacosi of Italy… who was the reigning gold medalist from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Once it had set in that I was locked-in for a medal, some of the pressure came off. Bacosi shot her targets, and then I realized that if I shot two targets, we tie, three targets, and I win. Let me tell you, in that moment all that was running through my head was, “I am not hearing that Italian National Anthem today.” I got set, pretended I was back in Fort Benning just having fun, and then I shot one target. I got set again, and shot the second target. Suddenly, I forgot how to shoot when I shot the third target. My body just took over. Then it hit me, I had won gold.”
English describes the moment as being so surreal that she did not even remember getting on the podium to receive her medal.
“It was such a humbling experience to know that all of my hard work had paid off for me. I felt like a deer in the headlights just standing there in utter shock. It was a dream-like experience.”
Upon returning from Tokyo, English was not finished competing just yet. She competed in the National Shooting Championships one month after her return and won a gold medal there as well.
As for future endeavors, her career has already taken her to Finland, Cairo, and Cypress.
“I’m going to take it day by day. I have this giant planner I use to keep my life organized. I’m also doing several engagements—which have made me not so afraid of public speaking as I once was—which are very rewarding. Who knows what is next for me. I may pursue a career in the medical sales path at Medical Sales College as it has always been something I have been interested in. I tell people all the time to just go for it, so that’s most likely what I will keep on doing.”