USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Ret. Army Lt. Col. Lones W. Wigger, Jr., who grew up in Carter and became a four-time Olympian and the most decorated rifle shooter in the world, died last week at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., of complications from pancreatic cancer.
He was 80 years old.
During his induction to the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008, Wigger’s daughter and 1983 Pan American Games teammate, Deena, said her father “has paid more back to the sport of shooting than he ever got out of it.”
Wigger’s illustrious international shooting career spanned 25 years and saw him winning 111 medals and setting 29 world records, along with winning two Olympic gold medals and one silver.
In 1999 Sports Illustrated ranked the top 50 athletes of the 20th Century in each of the 50 states. Wigger ranked No. 3, behind baseball star Dave McNally and rodeo champion Dan Mortensen.
As a 12-year-old in 1949, Wigger took up shooting in the basement of the Carter Community Center. Carter is the small community located just northeast of Great Falls.
Fifteen years later, he was well on his way to becoming one of the finest and best known position rifle shooters in the world.
At the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Wigger won the gold medal in small-bore, three-position shooting and also captured a silver in prone shooting. He would go on to win a silver medal in prone shooting at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and a gold in 300-meter free rifle at the 1972 Games in Munich.
“It's a great feeling to do it a second time,” Wigger said at the time. “It really proves something to you.”
Following the 1972 Olympics, on Oct. 14, 1972, Great Falls celebrated Lones Wigger Day.
Aside from his Olympic achievements, he tallied 60 U.S. titles, 12 individual world championship medals and held numerous world and National Rifle Association records. He helped the United States dominate the 1966 World Championships at Weisbaden, Germany.
Wigger was a fixture at the Pan American Games, winning a total of eight gold medals in 1963, 1971, 1975 and 1979.
Wigger earned All-American honors as a member of the Montana State University rifle team. He graduated from MSU in 1960, then began a distinguished career in the U.S. Army.
He was an officer with the Army's Elite Marksmanship Training Unit in Georgia, and was inducted into the Army Shooting Hall of Fame in 1988 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Wigger's daughter, Deena, competed for the U.S. in the 1988 Olympics. His father, Lones Sr., ran the junior shooting program in Carter.
In honor of his achievements and in celebration of his 80th birthday on August 25, USA Shooting renamed the interior of its headquarters and upper range the Lones Wigger Legacy Hall and Range, according to a story posted at www.teamusa.org.
The Lones Wigger/USAS Jr. Olympic Endowment was established to grow youth shooting programs. More than $225,000 has been raised and will impact junior shooting for years to come.
“Everyone here knows what it takes to be a champion or a success in life,” Wigger told the more than 300 attendees at that dedication ceremony. During the 30 minutes he spoke, he honored his family, teammates, friends and coaches for 25 of them. He only credited himself with his drive to train hard.
“There are no secrets,” he said. “It takes hours and hours of hard work, commitment, dedication, sacrifice and desire. Maybe desire is the most important. Everyone can be a winner. It just depends on how bad you want it. Never forget to dream. Dreams can and do come true.”
Wigger became the only athlete to win medals in all three Olympic rifle shooting disciplines and was selected as one of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 100 Golden Olympians in 1996.
Wigger is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Kay, his two sons Ron and Danny, daughter Deena, son-in-law Tom, and two grandchildren.