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Robert F. Jones
March 30, 1987
Lones and Deena Wigger are top U.S. marksmen
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March 30, 1987

Triggers For Wiggers

Lones and Deena Wigger are top U.S. marksmen

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She's young, pretty, and on this particular night she's being hassled by this "two-stage creep." No, not some obnoxious yutz pestering her for a date. Rather, in the jargon of her sport, the creep is a pesky, almost undetectable slippage in the two-stage trigger mechanism of her 11-pound target rifle. The 17-year-old is handling the problem in a manner familiar to teenage girls: pretending the creep isn't there.

Deena Wigger glares downrange along the blue-steel barrel of her .22-caliber Anschutz. She kneels in her shooting position, chewing furiously on what must be an entire packet of Dentyne. The snap of her gum is almost as loud as the pop of the bullets she is firing. But the shots stray wide of their mark 50 meters away. Finally she gets up and walks over to a short, stout man who has been staring at her all night.

"I think there might be something wrong with my pull," she says to the man. "Maybe it's a two-stage creep?"

"Why didn't you tell me earlier?" the man asks, not unkindly.

"I did, Daddy," she flares. "But you never listen!"

Lones Wigger, a stern, career military man with 18 years in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, shakes his head, almost but not quite smiling as Deena stalks off to get her creep eradicated. Fatherhood is the same all over, even on the rifle range. "She's making progress, though," he tells a companion. "Couple of years ago she'd have burst into tears." Then he looks up at a motto pinned to the wall of the converted World War II mess hall that houses the Fort Benning, Ga., indoor range. It reads: "Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

That scene took place three years ago. For Lones and Deena Wigger, that sign would take on deeper meaning in the months that lay ahead.

Deena, then a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, Ga., was training at nearby Fort Benning for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her father was training, too, but he had been an Olympian before. Lones, then 46 and one of the best riflemen in history, had won his first Olympic medals 20 years earlier at the '64 Tokyo Games—a gold and a silver for the best U.S. shooting performance of that Olympiad. Since then he had accumulated a total of 93 medals in international competition—55 gold, 30 silver, 8 bronze—including an Olympic gold in '72.

Deena, by contrast, was new to the world-class scene. She had burst from obscurity the previous summer to win her first national championship over Pat Spurgin in standard rifle prone (Spurgin went on to win gold at L.A. in air rifle) and later won the women's English match event at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas.

Together the Wiggers hoped to become the first father-daughter combo in the Olympics. But it was not to be. Neither of them even qualified for the U.S. team.

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