Lones Wigger_medal stand 1964
Lones Wigger waves to fans after receiving his first gold medal, in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics. He is flanked by silver medalist Velitchko Khristov of Bulgaria, left, and bronze medalist Laszlo Hammerl of Hungary.

“He must have nerves of steel to fire such a score,” said a spectator of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics of Army First Lieutenant, Lones Wigger, who was competing in the smallbore rifle prone competition. Wigger’s score of 597, which set a new Olympic and world record.

Unfortunately for the American, a Hungarian named Laszlo Hammerl went next and tied Wigger’s score, and because of a tie breaker, went on to take gold. Wigger’s silver medal was his first of three Olympic medals. He got his gold medal four days later in the 50-meter rifle three positions competition, and got his revenge as well as Hammerl finished in third.

Competing in three Olympiads, Wigger is considered one of the greatest competitive rifle shooters in the United States. He passed away on December 14, 2017. He was 80 years old.

Wigger never considered himself a natural talent. He prided himself on his work ethic, and continuous desire to practice and improve. As this article explains, persistence is all.

Wigger’s philosophy was clearly stated on a sign that hung in the Fort Benning indoor smallbore rifle range. In plain view for all to read and absorb, it read “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.”

Lones Wigger_Olympia 1964 Tokio
Lones Wigger, from the book in German titled Olympia 1964 Tokio

In this article, Wigger outlined things to do to be a world-class shooter:

  • Train Just As if You are in a Competition: You have to learn how to train just as if you were in a big competition. You work on every shot. You have got to learn to treat it just like a match — to get the maximum value out of every shot. You have got to use the same technique in practice and in training. A lot of shooters have a problem because they change their technique from practice to the match. In competition, you work your ass off for every shot. You have to approach the training the same way.
  • Shoot in Every Competition You Can Get Into
  • Do Everything Possible to Prepare: When Gary Anderson was a kid, he couldn’t afford a gun or ammunition. He had read about the great Soviet shooters. With his single shot rifle, he would get into position, point that gun and dry fi re for hours at a time in the three different positions. He had tremendous desire. He wanted to win and he did whatever he could to get there. When he finally got into competition, he shot fantastic scores from the beginning.
  • Visualize Winning to Train the Subconscious Mind: You picture in your mind what you want to do. You have to say, OK, I’m going to the Olympics and perform well. Picture yourself shooting a great score and how good it feels. You are training your subconscious mind. Once you get it trained, it takes over.
From the book, “XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964_Asahi Shimbun”

I love this picture of Olympian, Laszlo Hammerl, the Hungarian who won a gold and bronze medals in the 1964 Summer Games. It is a picture of intense concentration – and he needed every ounce of it to win gold in the 50-meter rifle prone competition.

Hammerl’s competition from America was strong. Lones Wigger set a world record of 597 points, while Tommy Pool came close with a score of 596. But Hammerl, later in the day tied Wigger on points at 597, and one gold on a technical tie breaker related to the last 10 shots of the 60 shots required to be taken in a 75-minute limit.

Hammerl would also win bronze in the 50-meter rifle three positions in Tokyo, as well as silver in the 50-meter rifle prone in Mexico City in 1968.