Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sharp shooter Emmons in last-shot nightmare again

The nightmare recurred.

American shooter Matthew Emmons just needed a 6.7 to be crowned in the men's 50-meter rifle three positions at the Beijing Olympic Games.

But he stunned all with a 4.4.

Gone was the gold, even the silver and the bronze.

"I must compete for another four more years. Now I think I have a reason," said the disappointed 27-year-old.


Champion of rifle prone at the Athens Olympics with several golds from World Championships, World Cups and World Cup Finals, Matthew just seized a rifle prone silver from the Beijing Olympics.

But what made him more well-known was his dramatic debacle in three positions event at the Athens Olympics.

In that competition, he held a huge three-point lead after the ninth shot in the final and needed just a 7.2 to win his second Olympic gold.

The man collected a 8.1, but on the target of another finalist, plunging to the eighth and surrendering his gold to the obscure Chinese Jia Zhanbo.

"I don't know if I'll be able to make up for it in four years, but I'm looking forward to Beijing," he said later.

However, this time, he was let down again.

Advancing to the final as the second-placer with 1,175 points, one point behind world record holder Rajmond Debevec from Slovenia, the American shooter got a 9.7 in the first shot, while the 45-year-old Slovenian shot a surprising 7.7 and was hence dropped to second.

Then the leading Matthew further pulled away from other finalists by making seven of the following eight shots above or equalling 10.

Before the last shot, he had already boasted an advantage from the second of more than three points.

After order was given for the tenth shot, his rivals started.

Debevec was fourth despite an ending 10.8.

Chinese shooter Qiu Jian surged to second with a 10.0, 0.1 point ahead of Ukrainian Jury Sukhorukov.

People held their breath, waiting for Matthew to stage a comeback. He needed just a moderate 9.2 to break the Olympic record of 1,275.1 by Debevec and a 6.7 for the gold.

He fired.

The target was right.

But spectators let out an exclamation.

Like enchanted, he notched up a stunning 4.4 and swooped to the fourth.

The lucky Chinese champion gazed at the screen of score in disbelief.

Spectators were rendered bewildered for several seconds, before they woke up to applaud for Qiu.

But for the first time, they didn't appear ecstatic after their marksman added another gold to the host country's medal tally. 


Sitting behind to watch the competition, Matthew' wife Katerina, who won the most eye-catching first gold of the Beijing Olympics for the Czech Republic and was working as commentator for the Czech Television, opened her mouth in astonishiment, before rushing over to comfort her husband.

Matthew threw himself into the arms of Katerina, eyes wet with tears.

"Old competitions I played back home kept running through my head and calmed me. On the final shot, the shot was high, at twelve o'clock. I relaxed down into the bullseye and hit the trigger every softly, they call it a set-off, where it just happens," said the disappointed shooter, who just won an Olympic silver at rifle prone.

"I didn't feel my finger shaking, but I guess it was. I realized it went off and I hoped it made it into the black . I call it a freak-of-nature; I felt normal in this match, a little bit more nervous. If it had made it to the bullseye, and it would have been great," he continued.

His rivals conveyed their sympathy.

"It is the most accidental case. I shot zero point once in a World Cup in Russia," said Sukhorukov, who rose to second after the mistake of Matthew.

"I know every human shooter can make a mistake. My friend's mistake was more than it should have been. He's very nervous maybe because of what happened in Athens, where he missed his last shot. Maybe he didn't have good concentration," said bronze medalist Debevec.

Chinese volunteers encouraged Matthew after he finished his interviews at the mixed zone.

"Matt, come on!" they shouted in Chinese amid thunderous applauses.

Words to comfort the dejected ace shooter soon appeared on portal websites.

"It was a pity that we lost a 'gold-medal couple'," said a netizen nicknamed Loving Heart on Xinhuanet. "I was deeply touched seeing Matt hug with his wife. What a touching scene!"

Another named Shenyuan said, "Don't grieve, Matt. Drawing lessons from the failures, you will perform more steadily next time."


Holding her husband softly, Katerina whispered at his ears, "It's just not meant to be..."

Four years ago, Katy, then known with her former surname as Kurkova, grabbed a bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

She was also a commentator for the Czech Television then, who witnessed tragedy of the legendary marksman.

"I felt sorry for him," she said. "I just needed to tell him how I felt and .. it doesn't matter."

That was the first time the girl plucked up to talk to the world champion. Before that he seemed aloft to her.

They called the meeting magic and the Chinese people may say "a loss may turn out to be a gain"

Two years later, they got married.

In the following days, the shooters helped each other -- Matthew taught Katy with small bore and Katy helped him with air rifle.

"We work as a team, the more medals we win as a team, the better," said Matthew on Friday after winning a silver in 50-meter rifle prone at Beijing Olympics.

Although the man didn't add one more to their three-medal collection here, he was still the best in Katy's eyes.

"If he can get a 4.4 and still place fourth, he's great!" she said firmly, "It was waiting for him. I'm sure it was waiting for him."

"What happened today I think will keep him going, keep him determined, and he will be more experienced," added the Czech markswoman, who won the women's 10m air rifle, the first gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, "this will keep him pointed in the right direction."

Maybe her encouragement soothed him.

When he came back to the final hall to take pictures, Matthew appeared calm.

"Things happen, I mean we're going home with three medals, I can't complain," he said.

Then he added emotionally, "With her by my side that's the most important thing, whether I win or lose, she will always be there and my family will always be there supporting me."

Katy said they were going to have a long holiday in the Czech Republic before preparing for the World Cup Final this November.

"We can have whatever we want now. The match is over."

Shoulder by shoulder, they walked away.

During the four years since Matthew's Athens nightmare, he harvested love.

Who knows in the next four years, what will be waiting for the young couple?

Source: Xinhua

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