It was a mutual lovefest last weekend when Belgrade native and Olympic athlete Ali Weisz made her first visit home since competing at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Weisz, a U.S. Army soldier and shooting instructor, was on a three-day publicity tour of local events for the Army.

She attended and did the coin flip for the Belgrade High School Homecoming football game Friday night. (Alas, the Panthers lost to Great Falls 25-13).

On Saturday, Weisz attended Belgrade’s Fall Festival and parade, signing autographs and posing for pictures with her fans. Sunday, she visited the Gallatin Valley Sharp Shooters, the local shooting club where she first picked up a BB gun as a 9-year-old.

“I wanted to thank everyone for their support throughout the years,” Weisz told the Belgrade News.

It was her first visit back home since the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and amid all the activity, she penciled in plenty of time to catch up with her family.

Weisz, 26, graduated with the Class of 2013 at Belgrade High.

Weisz, who has been ranked as high as second in the world in her specialty (50 meter 3 position) could never quite get things meshed in Tokyo and she ended up ranked 14th out of 50 athletes there. Shooters from China and Russia took the gold and silver medals. In qualifying rounds, Weisz shot a final score of 105.4 in her fifth round, which was 1.6 points shy of earning the eighth spot.

“Just over a point had me from medal contention,” she said. “It was a tight race.”

Weisz agreed “it was not a normal year,” with the Olympics having been postponed from 2020 and with multiple COVID protocols in place for the final Games.

Nevertheless, “I was more than honored to go there and be with the best of the best,” she said.

There are various ways to become an elite shooter, Weisz explained. One might go the collegiate route, or coach, or belong to a shooting club, or join the military.

“I wanted to serve my nation. This isn’t everyone’s path. I’m different – I tried everything. The Army lets me train and ensures me resources.”

Weisz says her days as a soldier-athlete start at 7:30 a.m., with training on the range for the first half of the day and the second half spent on everything from range maintenance to paperwork.

After a few days off, “I’m right back into it,” she said. She’s now training for the President’s Cup in Poland, which will be held Nov. 1-10. It’s an invitation-only competition and only 12 shooters have been invited.

Weisz is currently ranked eighth in the world.

Weisz and a collegiate teammate “crushed it” at a World Cup competition in New Delhi, India, and were at one time ranked first and second in the world.

Her family runs the Gallatin Speedway in Belgrade, “which is where I got my work ethic,” she continued. She has a sister, Bailey, who just graduated from Belgrade High, and now plays collegiate volleyball in Aberdeen S.D.; and another sister, Hannah, who is a junior at BHS. Weisz herself played Class A ball for Belgrade and remembers coming in “fourth or fifth that year in conference play, just short of going to state.”

By Monday, Weisz was back at Fort Benning, Ga., where she is stationed as a shooting instructor.

“How unbelievably excited and grateful and any other synonym you can think of for the support I have here. All the people at the parade cheering for me. It warms my heart. I couldn’t believe how many people came up to me and told me they were following my career,” she said Saturday.

As for her parents Sue Gramm and Dave Weisz – how are they doing being the parents of someone famous?

“I think it just snuck up on them. They’ve shown nothing but love to me,” she said.

In fact, Weisz has a career because of her parents, she says.

“If they hadn’t signed me up for 4-H,” she said. “Shooting BB guns at 9 years old. And now I can tell kids they can follow their dreams, too.”

“Montana will always be home. The mountains always call me. Belgrade is always home.”

Weisz graduated from the University of Mississippi and is enlisted on active duty assigned to the USAMU International team as a shooting instructor.

She is a two-time All American (2016, 2017) with the Ole Miss Rifle Team; four-time NCAA Championship individual qualifier (2014, 2017); World Championship team member 2018; and a Pan American Games Gold Medalist (2019).