Upon returning home from dance practice one afternoon, Irina Andrianova was approached by her father. He was part of a local shooting club in their hometown of Schaumburg, Illinois, and he wanted her to join him for the next meeting.
The two were speaking in Russian, and Andrianova misunderstood her father. Thinking he was talking about an archery club, she agreed to join. But when she arrived to her first club meeting, neither bows nor arrows were laying around.
Instead, it was an air gun club.
“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re shooting guns, like air guns,’” Andrianova said. “It took me back, and I’m like, ‘Oh, guns.’”
Andrianova was only in middle school, and she said she held a general fear of guns at the time. But having already made the trip, she decided to give it a shot.
“I accidentally started shooting that way, and then I stuck with it,” Andrianova said, recalling the moment. “I thought it was pretty neat.”
Andrianova shot with a rifle on her first day, something the club mandated for newcomers for safety reasons, but her immediate interest fell elsewhere.
“I saw the pistol shooters, and I thought they were pretty cool,” Andrianova said. “The next day, I went to pistol, and I didn’t do rifle ever again.”
Andrianova’s pistol career has blossomed ever since the accidental start. Before winning the national championship in women’s sport pistol as an Ohio State freshman a season ago, Andrianova won a title at the Junior Olympics in sport pistol during her senior year of high school and traveled to Germany and Spain for pistol competitions.
This summer, Andrianova traveled to South Korea for the World University Games as a member of Team USA.
Andrianova has found herself to be a natural shooter, but she wasn’t necessarily improving early on.
“I wasn’t doing too good because I’m a bit lazy, so for a while there, I wasn’t making any progress,” Andrianova said. “I’d always go to the club and be OK, but I got away with it because I wasn’t too bad.”
Andrianova gave credit to her father for motivating her to improve.
“I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten anywhere if it wasn’t for him getting down like, ‘Oh, you really need to be on top of this,’” Andrianova said. “He was the main driving force in me getting better.”
Andrianova said her father’s lessons have carried over into her college years, helping her to succeed even without his presence.
“He usually would come up to me and be like, ‘Irina, you’re doing that wrong,’” Andrianova said. “I’m on the line now and I do something wrong, and I’ll imagine his voice.”
Donna Knisley, coach of the OSU pistol team, acknowledged Andrianova’s shooting accomplishments, but it’s the sophomore’s personality that has especially caught Knisley’s eye.
“She’s a very positive young woman, she comes in with a lot of energy,” Knisley said. “We all wish that we could have her energy and enthusiasm. It’s funny because she’s also very quiet until she gets to know you, and then she opens up. She’s very introspective but a very exciting young woman to watch shoot.”
Now in her second year in Columbus, Andrianova is hoping to build upon her past accomplishments.
“I guess part of me wants to win the collegiate title again,” Andrianova said. “But for myself, it’s mostly just to improve as a shooter. I can improve steadily or improve myself with time so I can eventually be a really great shooter.”
Andrianova also spoke to her aspiration of one day making it to the Olympic pistol team, citing her experience at the World University Games as her motivation.
“It gave me a taste of what it would be like to perhaps be in the Olympics,” she said. “I know there’s still room for me to improve, and I’m going to improve and eventually be in the Olympics.”
Andrianova’s pistol career has become a normal and routine part of her life, but she still looks back and reflects on her unconventional start with the sport.
“I think back to the times where I was just casually shooting, not thinking much could happen,” Andrianova said. “I’d go to matches and look at these amazing shooters and they’d do amazing things, but they were kind of on some other side far away. Now, I’m one of those people. I still sometimes don’t believe it; I can’t be one of those people I looked up to before, but I kind of am.”
Andrianova is fully entrenched in her life at OSU, but she never forgets where she came from.
“I still feel like I’m a girl shooting back at home,” she said.