January 2, 1947 -
Second place was not good enough for Lanny Bassham. He had trained for years before earning his spot on the 1972 Olympic Team, and leaving Munich with a silver medal just did not feel right.
A product of Richland High School, and the R.O.T.C. program at University of Texas at Arlington (1965-69), Bassham became captain of the rifle team, leading them to numerous team championships and earning All-American honors during his four years. Upon graduation he entered the US Army and earned a spot on the Army Shooting Team.
Firing at a bull’s eye, three quarters the size of a dime, from a distance of fifty meters, the competitors learn to control their body. If you shoot when the heart beats you will miss the ten-ring. You must make the body stop and shoot between heartbeats. Bassham would eat nothing for twelve hours before competition to stop digestion and train to keep his pulse at around 60 beats per minute.
A major element of shooting involves controlling the mind. Placing second had greatly frustrated Bassham, making him realize that his mind needed more work than his body. He spent the next several years interviewing Olympic gold medalists, trying to learn how champions controlled the mental aspects of their sport. The research paid off. During the 41st World Shooting Championships in 1974 at Thum, Switzerland, he dominated the competition, earning 15 medals—8 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze.
Making the U.S. team again for the 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, Bassham was determined to win gold. This time, his final competition resulted in a tie between Bassham and fellow American, Margaret Murdock (the only woman in the competition). The tie-breaking rule at the time awarded the win to Bassham because his last ten shots were higher than Murdock’s. Bassham and the US Team petitioned the International Olympic Committee to award a duplicate gold medal to Murdock as most of the shooters in the world considered this tie-breaking rule to be unfair to the loser of the tiebreak. The request was denied.
Bassham made Olympic history during the medal ceremony. On the first note of the U.S. National Anthem, he pulled Murdock up to the gold medal platform where the two athletes stood together. This was the first time in the Olympics that the gold medalist shared the platform during the playing of the national anthem. When Bud Greenspan penned his book “100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History” this event was one of them. It changed the sport forever, producing separate events for women and a finals event to prevent ties in the future.
Shortly after President Jimmy Carter announced a boycott of the 1980 Olympics, Bassham decided to retire from competitive shooting and focus on teaching his system of mental control called Mental Managementâ. Bassham used this system to win 35 medals in international rifle competition, including 22 world individual and team titles; he set four world records and is a member of the USA Shooting Hall of Fame.