Bernard Melus

Sport: Pistol

Age: 19

Year: Sophomore

Hometown: Lake Zurich, Ill.

Major: Mechanical engineering

 

Question: I know you recently returned from the World Shooting Championships in Korea, and we’ll get to that. First things first: What sort of questions do you get when try to go through airport security with a pistol?

Answer: TSA officials often will read “pistol” on our travel uniform and ask about our sport. After one of us summarizes our competition procedure, they usually compliment us and wish us luck.

Q: And what would you say is the percentage of security personnel who are aware there is such a thing as collegiate pistol?

A: Every now and then you will find someone who understands the idea of a college pistol team during travel, but I have never met a security person that explicitly knows what we do. Most people have no idea our sport exists.

 

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Q: OK, now to Korea: What was that experience like?

A: The thing that stood out was the appreciation the South Koreans had for the event. People told me that firearms are illegal in South Korea, but they all seemed excited to have us there.

The opening ceremony exceeded all expectations. At one point the prime minister made a speech emphasizing that the event served not only as a test of skills, but as a peace movement. One of the spectator groups had created signs and shirts to promote the unification of North and South Korea. Being a part of all this made me feel honored.

The range and facilities were top-notch, too. It was the most organized match I have ever been to.

Q: In what events did you participate and how do you think it went for you?

A: I participated in 50-meter free pistol. The event is 90 minutes long and consists of 60 consecutive shots at an electronic target. It is called free pistol because of the lack of restrictions on categories such as trigger weight, sight radius and grip — aspects that are strictly regulated for the other events. Although the score was on par with my season average, the competition fueled my desire to reach my full potential as a pistol athlete.

Q: You traveled to the event with your teammate Sam Gens and assistant coach Anthony Lutz; did you guys have a grand time? How did you deal with the food?

A: Traveling with Sam and Coach Lutz was the best part. In our free time we had fun exploring the various shops and restaurants in Changwon. The food was quite spicy, but the three of us handled it well. Because of the language barrier, the menus were impossible to read. Our method for ordering food was to point to something on the menu and smile. This did not disappoint us.

Q: Let’s switch to how you came to Ohio State; were you pretty heavily recruited, and what prompted you to pick here?

A: There are only a handful of U.S. schools that offer a colligate pistol team, and academics came first in my search for a college. I narrowed my options to Purdue and OSU, since both have great engineering programs and a pistol team. I ultimately chose OSU because of the great academic and athletic reputation.

Q: How does recruiting work in pistol? As you said, not many colleges offer shooting. Does that make it easier to get a coach’s attention?

A: Many coaches meet and recruit pistol athletes from competitions such as USA Shooting’s Junior Olympics and Winter Airgun Championship. If you seem competitive and are interested in a pistol program, coaches will recruit you.

Q: So, as a freshman you were part of a national championship team. Do you have your ring yet? Do you wear it much?

A: I do have my ring! It is awesome. I do not wear it often as it is massive. But it is a great piece to wear at a formal event or an interview.

Q: When and how did you get into shooting?

A: I got into shooting at Arlington International Airgun Club in the suburbs of Chicago. I started shooting air rifle competitively when I was 12 years old. I switched to pistol after the eighth grade, training at the same club.

Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?

A: From sixth to eighth grade I was on a club golf team and throughout high school I was on a competitive skeet shooting team. I loved skeet and golf but pistol has always been my focus.

Q: Speaking of outside interests, I saw some cool photos on your social media; did you take those?

A: Yes I did! Photography has been a passion of mine for about four years now. I find it hard to make time to go out and shoot photos, but it is one of my favorite things to do in my free time. My favorite types of photography include shooting landscapes, macro and long exposure.

Q: What kind of exercises help you in pistol? A steady arm helps, obviously, but are there any workouts for those?

A: We do all types of strength exercises with a trainer, with a focus on shoulder and arm exercises. At the range, we include various holds with the gun or a weight in our practice to exercise smaller muscles that are critical to shooting.

Q: Do pistol competitors drink coffee, or would the caffeine make them jittery?

A: Some shooting athletes drink coffee before a match to help them concentrate or because it is a part of their daily routine. I avoid coffee before shooting to achieve a tighter hold.

Q: Does the pistol team at Ohio State have a natural rivalry with the rifle team, or is everyone cool?

A: Before our new coaches were hired, I was told that the rifle and pistol teams did not interact much with each other. Last year, everyone was cool with each other. Based on what I know, there has never been a real rivalry between the teams.

Q: Not that you would, but if you had to say something snarky to a rifle team member, what would it be?

A: Probably something along the lines of “Your shoe's untied” while they are shooting. Since they wear stiff shooting jackets, they can’t bend over to tie their shoes unlike us pistol shooters, who have a full range of motion.

Q: Your hometown of Lake Zurich is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago; does that make you a fan of Chicago team sports?

A: I am terrible at keeping up with professional sports but yes, I consider myself a fan of Chicago teams.

Q: Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks — how would you rate them, from first to worst?

A: The Cubs won the 2016 World Series and for that they are my favorite. The Blackhawks are cool because I like hockey. I like the Bulls only because of Lauri Markkanen, who looks exactly like one of my friends from back home. And the Sox get the bottom of the list.

Q: Is it correct that you’re minoring in German? What’s a cool German phrase you can share? (Don’t get us in trouble.)

A: “Einen Vogel haben” directly translates to “to have a bird” and is used to describe a person who is doing something crazy.

rstein@dispatch.com