Once Known For His Snazzy Socks, Rifle Shooter Ivan Roe Has A New Calling Card: 2024 Olympian
by Scott McDonald
Ivan Roe wanted something to set him apart from other competitive shooters before he entered college, so he altered his socks and footwear.
Most shooters wore a suit with matching black socks and just shot their guns, he recalled. So on a whim, Roe bought two different, brightly colored shoelaces for his shoes, and socks that matched each shoelace.
His left shoe had a bright orange lace, and he wore a matching neon orange sock. His right shoe had a lime green lace, and he wore a matching sock on that leg.
That fashion statement didn’t last, he said, as a new rule stated a shooter’s uniform had to match. Now he just wears funky-colored socks that mirror his alma mater’s colors and now match both legs. However, he no longer needs swanky clothes and accessories to set him apart from the best shooters in the world. Last month, the 27-year-old Roe made his first U.S. Olympic team when he qualified in the 10-meter air rifle at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He will aim to double qualify during the smallbore trials next month.
That’s not bad for a guy who never planned to be a competitive shooter.
Growing up in Montana, Roe got his first BB gun at age 5, and two years later signed up for a gun safety course because his father was an avid hunter and expected his children to join the hunt each season.
“I wasn’t originally interested in shooting, but more into playing baseball and soccer,” Roe said. “Dad said you just have to do it for one year, and then you can stop.”
The original plan was to stop after one year so he could enjoy playing other sports. His shooting team made it to the state finals that year, however, and they finished third.
“I remember how good it felt to win,” he said, “and I never wanted to stop doing it.”
Roe’s father asked if he wanted to do another year of competition at age 8, so Ivan did it. When he turned 10, Roe got a .410 shotgun. Things only continued from there.
Roe worked his way through the ranks of shooting, competing all the way through his senior year of high school. He also hunted wild game in the Montana wilderness and kept playing soccer and golf as well.
For college, he was offered scholarships in rifle shooting and as a soccer goalie, ultimately taking the shooting route. He became a seven-time All-American at Murray State in Kentucky and considered retirement upon graduation. He had reason to hang it up, but he also had reason to keep on going as his scores and finishes got better, he said. It sparked a new fervor to reach another level.
“I looked for ways to continue, so it was either the (U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado) or the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit,” Roe said. He chose the Army path.
Roe didn’t qualify for Team USA’s lineup at either the Olympic Games Rio 2016 or the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, finishing just outside as an alternate each time.
“When you don’t qualify it’s a big emotional wave,” Roe said about not making the team for Tokyo. “My coach had me write down my thoughts on how I felt at that moment, and what needs to happen to not do it again. That gave me the motivation to push myself harder.”
Roe has been on a tear since then, winning a world title in 2022 in the mixed team 50-meter prone rifle event, and earning his country’s quota and a gold medal in the 50-meter rifle three positions at the Championships of the Americas.
Though the smallbore is his preferred rifle, he’s becoming more savvy in the air rifle. In late January, he felt that his work at an international air rifle competition in Germany had him in contention to do well at this year’s Olympic Games Paris 2024.
“Last weekend I shot well enough to qualify for world championships or the Olympic finals,” Roe said. “That gave me the realization I can compete with the best in the world, not just the United States.”
Roe, a sergeant stationed at Fort Moore, Georgia, will compete in the third phase of the U.S. Olympic trials on his home turf March 17-19 in the 50-meter three positions, which is his favorite event.
He said he’ll continue to train two days a week on the air rifle and three days on the smallbore at approximately 4-5 hours per day on each discipline. The rest of the day he spends on mental work like visualization and pre-match processes.
As for his footwear, Roe likes his brightly colored blue and gold checkered socks that match his shoes, a nod to his days shooting at Murray State.