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Brookline 19-year-old Ada Korkhin is on the verge of making the 2024 Olympics in a unique sport

Ada Korkhin poses for a photo at a practice range. Photo courtesy of Brittany Nelson
March 7, 2024

Ada Korkhin just couldn’t get over how big everything was. The shooting range. The hotel. The list of countries her competitors came from.

The summer after graduating from the Edward Devotion School (now Florida Ruffin Ridley) in 2019, the Brookline native traveled to Suhl, Germany for the International Shooting Sport Federation Junior World Championships. Five years later, 19-year-old Korkhin aims even higher.

Ranked third in the country in the 25-meter Sport Pistol, the 2023 Brookline High School graduate has her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics. The make or break moment will come in Columbus, Georgia on March 17, when she competes in the third leg of the USA Shooting smallbore Olympic trials.

“As I progress more and more through the trials, it’s becoming more of a real possibility,” said Korkhin, now a freshman at Ohio State, on an athletic scholarship as a member of the Buckeyes’ pistol team. “I really don’t think it will hit me until I arrive there or shoot in the competition.”

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Korkhin acknowledges her sport sometimes needs some extra explanation. She’s quick to point out how safe it is and patiently explains it to anyone wanting to learn more. You shoot small targets. It’s electronic, quite high-tech.

“It’s very tame compared to what people think when you say you’re going to the range and shooting a gun,” Korkhin said. “It’s not any high-caliber gun. It’s all about precision and focus.”

Korkhin’s father, Yakov, introduced her to the sport when she was nine, signing her up for the junior program at the Massachusetts Rifle Association, his longtime club in Woburn and the country’s oldest active club. The junior program teaches both Olympic variations, first air pistol, and with experience and age, smallbore pistols, also known as .22 pistols.

Air Pistol is a timed event where participants fire at targets placed 10 meters away from the shooter. In Sport Pistol, a women’s-only sport, shooters fire at targets placed 50 feet away.

“As parents we tried to engage her in extracurricular activities, piano, gymnastics, arts, and there wasn’t much enthusiasm on her part,” Yakov said. So he brought her along to his club.

She loved it. About a year into her air pistol training, Yakov, formerly in the Russian and Israeli armies, set up a makeshift practice range in the family’s apartment, allowing Ada to shoot from the kitchen through the living and dining rooms. Shooting the .22 pistol was out of question in those tight quarters, so she used the less powerful and quieter air pistol. A small trap caught the pellets.

A young Ada Korkhin practices shooting at home. Photo courtesy of the Korkhin family.

“I know this is a sport that isn’t as widely known as an athletic activity here in the United States for whatever reason, but I’m from Europe, and it’s very popular there,” Yakov said.

Korkhin continued practicing at home, progressing through Yakov’s training plans. Eventually, she moved to an electronic target. Korkhin first competed in Progressive-Position Air Pistol (PPP competition) before trying the Junior Olympics. A year or two later, she qualified for the USA Shooting National Junior team.

“She grew into it,” Yakov said, “and gradually became who she is.”

Her career to this point has been stellar. In 2022, Korkhin nabbed a gold medal and three silvers during high-level competition. She won gold in the Air Pistol at the USA Shooting National Junior Olympic Championships, and three silver medals at various junior events. She also helped Team USA to a fourth-place finish at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Championships. She finished with a bronze medal at the 2023 World Championship in Changwon in the 25-meter Women’s Junior Pistol.

At Ohio State, Korkhin practices five times per week at the team’s training facility in the campus ROTC building. A biochemistry student, Korkhin expects to balance shooting with a professional career, like she does with school now. There isn’t a ton of money available in the professional ranks. Her half-sister Alisa is a professional ballerina. Her other half-sister Anna is a doctor.

Emil Milev, head coach of Ohio State’s pistol team, said coaching Korkhin is a “pleasure.” Milev, a five-time Olympian, began recruiting her before her senior year of high school, already impressed by her maturity.

“She’s calm and respectful of everybody,” Milev said. “She doesn’t bring drama at all. She’s just matter of fact and positive. I think she’s very capable.”

Following the third Olympic trials, athletes’ six-score shot total (two per trial) will be added together and averaged. The top finisher qualifies for the Olympics. If she misses out, Korkhin will have one more chance at the 2024 Championship of the Americas March 31-April 7 in Buenos Aires.

Her 2019 experience in Germany, where Korkhin shot her personal best at the time, opened up a world of opportunity; Peru, Egypt and South Korea. Korkhin participated in the Olympic trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at just 15. At that age, it was largely just for the experience. Next weekend in Georgia, it’s for real.

“There are definitely higher stakes this time around,” Korkhin said.