Chris Cheng: MIIS Alumnus Wins History Channel’s Top Shot
With no formal training and nothing to prove to anyone but himself, Chris Cheng (MAIPS ’06) flew under the radar when he arrived in Agua Dulce, California as one of the competitors on the fourth season of the History Channel’s reality show Top Shot. By the time he was crowned the winner of the competition and awarded $100,000 and a contract with Bass Pro as a professional marksman six weeks later, his consistent performance and grace under pressure had impressed both fans and fellow competitors.
Before winning Top Shot, Chris was a program manager at Google, where he had worked since graduating from MIIS with a specialization in Conflict Resolution in December 2006. “I was lucky enough to be recommended for the job by fellow MIIS graduate Hunter Sykes (MAIEP ’05),” Chris shares, adding that his international understanding and training in writing short policy memos about complicated issues worked to his advantage. This spring he changed course to pursue his new contract and other opportunities.
One might ask—as many have—what draws a tech geek from San Francisco with a master’s degree in conflict resolution to the world of firing weapons? Straight shooter that he is, Chris has no problem answering that question. “I love to shoot but I’m not a gun-toting zealot,” he says, “and I believe strongly that you gain a better appreciation and respect for the power of guns when you actually fire one.“
“As a kid I always liked to play with water balloon launchers, potato-guns, slingshots and BB guns,” Chris says. His father, a former Navy navigator, first took him to a shooting range when he was six years old, but he says that real guns were not a big part of his upbringing at all. It wasn’t until adulthood that he began practicing regularly, and was motivated to take it seriously after watching the first season of Top Shot in 2010.
“Top Shot” is an anomaly in the reality show genre in that it focuses more on the actual competition than personal relationships or as the New York Times puts it: “Aficionados of train-wreck TV won’t have much to embrace.” Nonetheless, moving into a house full of strangers for six weeks and being totally cut off from the outside world added to the pressure of the Top Shot competition, says Chris, who no doubt benefitted from his background in conflict resolution. He is grateful for the messages of support he has received from MIIS friends all over the world—to which we now add our heartfelt congratulations!