Fathers dream of daughters like Deena Wigger. A National Honor Society member, the 17-year-old high school junior from Fort Benning, Ga. boasts a 3.6 grade-point average, is active in the Math Club and serves as vice president of the Spencer High student council. To top it off Deena is devoted to dear old Dad. “He’s my idol,” she says, her blue eyes alight with affection.
After school, no doubt, Deena works on her cheerleading and helps old ladies cross the street. Well, not exactly. Each afternoon this delicate Georgia peach dons black leather pants and jacket. She ties back her honey-brown hair. Then, armed with her very own .22, she blasts the living daylights out of the Fort Benning rifle range.
Deena, who is national standard rifle prone champion, has a good chance to make both the U.S. Olympic team and a bit of Olympic history while she’s at it. She won two gold medals at the Pan Am games last summer while her father, Lones, probably the best competitive rifleman in U.S. history, won five. This year, as Deena attempts to make her first Olympic team, Lones, 46, will be trying for his sixth. Should both be selected, the Wiggers would be the first father-daughter duo in Olympic history. “Not only would it be outstanding if we both made the team,” says Deena, “but he would be there to help me through this new experience.”
In previous Olympiads Deena would have competed against her father, since men and women shot together. But in L.A. women will compete in their own events, firing the air rifle and sport pistol from the standing position and the standard rifle from three positions—standing, kneeling and prone. Six women and 14 men will be selected for the U.S. rifle team at next month’s Olympic trials in Chino, Calif. Deena describes herself as “hopeful but realistic” about her chances of making the team and believes she will have a better shot at a medal in Seoul in 1988.
Remarkably, Lones, who calls himself the “oldest rifle shooter in the world,” does not coach his daughter. He encourages her, he says, but both agree the pressure of a coaching relationship would create problems. “She has the capability of becoming the best woman shooter in the world,” he declares. “But no matter how much I want it for her, I can’t do it for her. I can’t pull the trigger.” He adds: “To win an Olympic gold medal, you have to want it worse than anything and be willing to work hard for it. It almost has to be an obsession.”
Shooting has certainly been his obsession. A competitive shooter since he was 12, the Montana-born Wigger has racked up 27 world records, 71 national championships, 22 world championships and three Olympic medals—two gold, one silver. As a lieutenant colonel in the Army reserve, Wigger is in charge of the elite rifle section of the marksman unit at Fort Benning. He has taught countless GIs to shoot and served two tours in Vietnam, instructing American snipers. “Shooting,” he says simply, “has been my life.”
Lones has made shooting his children’s life as well. The youngest of three children, Deena picked up her first gun at 12 to follow in the sharp-shooting footsteps of her brothers, Ron, 24, who serves under his father at Fort Benning, and Danny, 22, now on a rifle scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University. (Only Deena’s mother, Mary Kay, doesn’t have an itchy trigger finger.) Discouraged at first by her brothers’ superiority, Deena took two years off, then reloaded. Today she shoots for both her coed high school team and the national team.
In addition to inheriting her father’s determined jaw, Deena also has his will to win. “I never thought of it as fun,” she says of shooting. “I wanted to excel. I wanted to be a success.” Will she and her dad succeed in getting to L.A. together next August? Let’s just say they have a shot at it.