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Taking Aim at an Olympic Gold Medal : Shooting: Although he failed to make the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, Josh Lakatos, 20, has plenty of time and talent on his side.

July 22, 1993|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PASADENA — Josh Lakatos is a shooting star who figures to stay on the horizon for a while.

Lakatos, 20, has set nine world records this year with his shotgun. The Pasadena native has won several World Cup shooting competitions and is the youngest member of the U.S. national team.

Lakatos is gunning for a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He will compete this weekend in the U.S. Olympic Festival at San Antonio.

"We don't get a lot of attention from the media like some of the other Olympic sports," Lakatos said. "The one thing that keeps us going is knowing we can hold the same gold medal as everyone else if we win at the Olympics."

Lakatos, who earned a high school degree from Don Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead, has been living at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., since January. More than 100 athletes--including weightlifters, gymnasts, cyclists and table tennis players--live and train at the center.

"It's a great environment," Lakatos said. "The facilities are outstanding and when you leave for a competition, everyone wishes you luck and pulls for you. It's fun to talk with the people in other sports and find out how they're doing."

Lakatos has done more this year than most trapshooters accomplish in a career. His talent for hitting clay disks that fly to 65 m.p.h. from underground bunkers is uncanny.

In April, Lakatos won the gold medal in the trap and double trap events at the Cairo World Cup in Egypt. He hit 120 of 125 clay targets--a men's world record--and 24 of 25 targets in a sudden death shoot-off.

In May, he won the trap gold medal at the Seoul World Cup in South Korea. In June, Lakatos won the junior trap and open double trap portions of the World Shotgun Championship competition at Barcelona, Spain, becoming the first shotgun shooter to win junior and men's world titles in the same year.

Last week, Lakatos won two junior events and placed fourth in two men's division events at the U.S. International Shooting Championship at Colorado Springs. The performance secured Lakatos a spot in 1994 World Cup events and kept him in the running for a place on the team that will compete in next year's World Championships.

"I was kind of ticked about the way I shot," Lakatos said. "But I made the team (for the World Cup). That's all I really wanted to do."

Lakatos began his shooting career as a youngster.

"We used to go to the desert and just plunk cans," said Lakatos' father, Steve. "We went out to some shotgun ranges and he (Josh) really liked shooting clay targets.

"He was looked at by some great shooters, and they all said, 'This guy has some real hand-eye coordination.' So we sent him to a camp to see what his reactions were like."

Lakatos' performance at a Connecticut shooting camp earned him an introduction to former world champion Dan Carlisle. Under Carlisle's tutelage, Lakatos entered his first national competition at age 15. He did not perform well.

"(Carlisle) told me that he wanted to put all the pressure on me then and get it out of the way," said Lakatos, who has 20-14 vision. "It took me six or eight months to get over being really tight and feeling the pressure.

"He gave me a form and a mental game to go along with my natural ability."

Lakatos steadily improved and won the California state trap championship in 1989 and 1991. He also won the Olympic Festival in 1991.

Lakatos, however, did not shoot well at the 1992 Olympic trials and failed to make the team. That setback motivated him to work harder and keeps him focused on Atlanta.

He moved to Colorado Springs to cut his personal training expenses and train with other top American shooters, including Lance Bade, 22, of Ridgefield, Wash., who won the gold medal at the U.S. International Shooting championship last month.

Lakatos said he is ready to take aim at Olympic gold in 1996.

"I've done everything this year that I had hoped to do in the last three," Lakatos said. "Maybe the next three years will be even better."

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