100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Margaret Murdock, shooting

Margaret Murdock
1976 Olympic shooting medal ceremony Margaret Murdock.jpg
Posted at 8:00 AM, May 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-15 09:00:27-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The first female member of the U.S. Olympic shooting team, Margaret Murdock was born in Topeka and won a silver medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Murdock, a nurse and former U.S. Army officer, was the first woman to win an Olympic shooting medal and the first to win a World Shooting Championship.

She wasn’t initially allowed to compete on the shooting team at Kansas State University after enrolling in the early 1960s, but after a coaching change she went on to win two Big Eight championships (1963, 1964).

Murdock was the first woman awarded a varsity letter by the Wildcats, who practiced with the 5th Army Rifle Team at Fort Riley in Kansas.

After college, she joined the Army, serving as a shooting instructor at Fort Benning and working her way up to major.

Murdock narrowly missed qualifying for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, but made the team eight years later and tied U.S. captain Lanny Bassham for first place in the 50-meter three-position rifle.

Bassham requested a shootoff for the gold medal, but it wasn’t permitted under Olympic rules and Murdock officially finished second.

During the national anthem, Bassham had Murdock join him atop the podium for the medal ceremony.

The two had tied with 1,162 points after 120 shots, but Bassham had more points in the final 10 shots, which served as the tiebreaker.

“I’m glad we had the presence of mind to do what we did,” Bassham said, according to “I think it was in the spirit of the Olympics. I still believe she deserves a gold medal. If there was anything I could do to get Margaret Murdock a different color to her medal, I would do it.”

Silver medalist Margaret Murdock (left) and Bassham (center) during the medal ceremony for the 50-meter three-position rifle at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Murdock won the Olympic Spirit Award for her sportsmanship, but her unprecedented international success wasn’t limited to the Olympics.

She was a four-time world champion — winning the three-position rifle in 1966 and 1970, the 300-meter three-position rifle in 1970 and the prone rifle in 1974 at the World Shooting Championships.

She set a world record, men and women, for kneeling rifle shooting during the Pan American Games in 1967 with a score of 391.

It was one of 13 world records she was part of during her career.

She repeated as a Pan American Games gold medalist in 1975.

Murdock, who was inducted in the U.S. International Shooting Hall of Fame in 1992, also won silver in the prone rifle at the 1966 and bronze in the three-position rifle in 1974 at the World Shooting Championships.

She is the only woman ever ranked in the world top 10 shooters by the International Shooting Union.

All told, Murdock was part of 14 world team championships, seven individual world championships and collected five Pan American Games gold medals.

She’s part of numerous halls of fame, including the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame (2018) and Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame (2007).

Murdock, whose married name is Margaret Thompson, ranked fifth on the Topeka Capital-Journal’s list of greatest athletes in Shawnee County history in 2011.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

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