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American hits wrong target, loses gold medal
Updated: 2004-08-22 23:56

Matthew Emmons is a trained accountant but he got his numbers terribly wrong on Sunday.

The American sharpshooter was just one shot away from a second Olympic gold medal when he fired at the wrong target in the final round.

Gone was the chance of gold - or even silver or bronze.

Emmons, who had dominated the 50-metre rifle three-position target event and is considered the best in the world in his discipline, got a big fat zero and plunged to eighth.

"Crap happens," said the 23-year-old. "I'll live to shoot another day."

The native of New Jersey, who has a degree in accounting from the University of Alaska and will start graduate school in Colorado next week, said he had never had a "cross-target" violation in at least six years of international shooting.

Although Emmons first appeared stunned and slightly embarrassed, quickly leaving the arena after congratulating the medal winners, he was soon back to his usual affable self.

"I didn't look at the number above the target before the last shot," said Emmons. "I usually always look (through the scope) at the number first and then drop down to the target.

"I was just working on calming myself down and getting a good shot off. I should have looked."

Had Emmons peered through the scope at the number above the target, he would have seen he was aiming not at his own target in lane number two but at the target on lane three - belonging to Austrian Christian Planer.

"It's only happened once or twice in my whole life," said Emmons, who began shooting at 14. "It's never happened to me in international competition.

"When my score didn't register I didn't think it could have been a cross fire because I never do that."


Emmons, who won the gold on Friday in the 50-metre prone position competition, was holding a huge three-point lead after nine rounds in an event usually decided by fractions of a point.

He led the field with bullseyes - scores of 10.0 to 10.4 - on four of his first nine shots in the final and needed only a modest 7.2 to win gold on his 10th and final shot.

He got an 8.1 on his last shot - but on Planer's target.

"If I got an 8.1 on mine I would have won," he said. "I thought it was a target malfunction, which sometimes happens.

"The officials thought the shot didn't register for some reason and wanted to make me shoot again.

"Then they noticed there were two shots in the other target."

Team mate Michael Anti, bumped up to silver, said he felt awful for Emmons.

"He was by far the best shooter in the competition and in 25 years of shooting he's the best I've ever seen, anywhere in the world," said Anti. "He shot great but had a mental error that cost him the gold medal. It's not a good day for him."

Emmons, who said he was looking forward to a beer, said he would be back for another try at the 2008 Olympics.

"The other shooters all came up to me and told me I was the best shot today," he said. "I don't know if I'll be able to make up for it in four years, but I'm looking forward to Beijing."





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