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Ohio State pistol team member qualifies for US Olympic squad

When Katelyn Abeln turned 13, she aged out of her 4-H BB gun team, so she and her father, Jerry, started one for air pistol. At that young age, Abeln never imagined it would lead her to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Abeln is a student at The Ohio State University, pursuing her master’s degree in public health and epidemiology. She was a vital part of Ohio State’s pistol team, which won national championships in the last three consecutive years.

Her next shot at gold will come in the Olympics, as Abeln has already qualified for the 10-meter air pistol event.

For the Olympics, shooters fire 60 shots at the target in an hour and 15 minutes. The top eight move on to the next round. Although 60 shots seem like a lot, Abeln says she usually does double that amount in practice.

“It’s not that bad,” Abeln said of the 60 shots. “Like most athletes, we’re going to train more so the matches feel pretty easy.”

Originally from Georgia, Abeln hadn’t considered attending Ohio State until her current coach, Emil Milev, got a job at the university.

“He came into the university two years before I did,” Abeln said. “When I heard he was the head coach, I immediately knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Abeln is no stranger to success. She spent her 13th birthday in Colorado shooting at a qualifying match for the National Junior Olympic Rifle and Pistol Championships, and tried out for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 as a first-year student, but ended up being the first alternate.

“I was devastated,” Abeln said, “but I had a really good support system. My family, my coaches, my teammates all had my back and pushed me to go for Paris. Paris has been on my mind since I didn’t make the Tokyo team.”

One of the qualifying events for the 2024 Olympics happened to be during college finals, which put Abeln in a difficult spot.

“It was a challenge, for sure. A lot of late nights, lots of meetings with professors. Luckily, all the Ohio State professors were really accommodating and worked with me a lot,” Abeln said.

It was a surreal moment when she learned she would be going to the Olympics.

“It took a while for it to sink in,” Abeln said. “It’s super exciting, and it feels great for all my hard work to have paid off. I feel so grateful for everybody who has been with me through it all, and I have such a great support system. They say it takes a village, and my village is pretty great.”

Abeln has traveled the world competing, but this will be her first time in France. And while it won’t be a typical visit, she’s still looking forward to experiencing a new place, especially one that is celebrating a global event like the Olympics.

“Just seeing everyone who lives [in Paris] excited about something collectively is going to be really cool,” she said. “Seeing everyone band together to support one big event, even though they don’t know most of the people there – the Olympics bring so many people together.”

Abeln also gets to bring along two important people: her mother, Joy, and her first coach, her father.

“That’s honestly one of the things I’m most excited about is getting to experience the Olympics with them. To know that they’re there and they get to see me at the highest stage and everything they sacrificed for me to get there is special,” Abeln said.