Matthew Emmons of the United States competes during the men's 50m rifle 3 positions final of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Shooting event in Beijing, China, Aug. 17, 2008. Matthew Emmons won the 4th with a total of 1270.3.
The American shooter who shot at the wrong target and gifted Chinese a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, blew his last shot and a huge lead again, giving the Olympic men's 3-position rifle gold to Chinese Qiu Jian on Sunday.
Leading by 3.3 points and needing only a mediocre shot of 7.6 to dispel the 2004 ghosts, Emmons fired a 4.4 on his final attempt to drop to fourth.
Four years ago, Emmons had a comfortable lead in this event, only to shoot at the wrong target on his final shot and end up with no medal at all. Chinese Jia Zhanbo took the gold.
This time, Chinese Qiu Jian won the gold. Jury Sukhorukov of Ukraine won the silver and Rajmond Debevec took the bronze.
Emmons' last shot stunned everyone, including his wife Katerina, who spoiled China's bid for the first gold medal of the Olympics by winning the women's rifle title on Aug. 9.
Katerina, who had also picked a silver in Beijing, gasped in horror as her husband once again blew his last shot. She quickly came down from the spectators stands to console her heartbroken husband.
The unexpected gold helped China top the final shooting medal with five golds, followed by the United States, the Czech Republic and Ukraine with two each.
While the unluckiest man in 2004 kept his unwanted title in 2008, Chinese netizens immediately compared the American shooter to Canadian doctor Norman Bethume, who helped Chinese fight Japanese invading troops in the 1930s and died of blood poisoning from a cut he received when performing surgery.
"Thank you, Emmons! You are a Bethume," said a message on popular Chinese news portal Xinhuanet.com.
Choking at the last shot is not rare in Olympic history. Wang Yifu, now head coach of the Chinese shooting team, blew a nearly insurmountable lead in the 1996 Olympics with a 6.5-point last shot in the men's pistol final.
"I got on the trigger a little too hard. I didn't feel my trigger shaking but I guess it was," Emmons explained. "It just hit the trigger, the gun went off and I was like, 'Uh, that's not going to be good.'"
In the eyes of his wife, Emmons is always a hero.
"He's definitely the best standing shooter out there," said Katerina. "If he can still end up fourth with a 4.4 on the last shot, that's a hell of a shooter."