|Bronze medalist Matt Emmons poses during the medal ceremony for
the men's 50-meter rifle 3 positions final at the London 2012 Olympic
Games at the Royal Artillery Barracks on Aug.6, 2012 in London.
August 6, 2012 is a day that I’ll always be proud of, but I certainly never want to relive. That was the day of my 50-meter rifle 3X40 competition at the London Olympic Games (also known as men’s three position). London was my third Olympic Games and my third time competing in that event at the Games. I have a bit of a crazy history with 3X40. Since about 2002, I’ve been the best three position shooter in the world. I was in line for the gold medal in Athens, made a mistake on the final shot and finished eighth. In Beijing, I was also in line for the gold medal, made a different mistake and finished fourth. Somehow I was crazy enough to want to go back and try again in London.
August 6th was one of the most challenging and stressful days of my life. I knew from the first shot that there were millions of people around the world watching to see if I was going to overcome my past history with this event. Even though I wasn’t in the best form of my career, I still fought hard through the three-and-a-half hour competition and made it into the final in second place. As I prepared for the final, I was nervous. More nervous than I had been in any competition for a long time. I felt like a junior again! Our sports psychologist, Sean McCann, told me something during that time that made me smile and also got me focused on the job at hand. My wife and father-in-law were there to give me strength and let me know that I wasn’t alone in the fight. Through the nerves, I was shooting a very good final and I was following my plan. I wasn’t going to fool myself and I knew I was going to be nervous on the last shot. I told myself that it’s ok to be nervous — anyone would be in that situation. I used every trick I knew to get as relaxed as possible for that last shot. As I came down into the target for the final shot, I told myself, “It’s not going to be pretty because you’re going to be moving a lot, so once you get into the target, start putting pressure on the trigger and don’t stop until the shot goes.” When it went, I knew it wasn’t a great shot. I looked at the target monitor and I saw it was a 7.6 to the right — not a very good result, but about as good as I could have done. I prayed it was enough to get on the podium. I then peeked at the results screen and saw I won bronze!
I let out a huge sigh of relief. It was over. I had done it. Sure, it wasn’t gold, but I was proud regardless. To make the day better, my very good friend Nicco Campriani of Italy shot two new Olympic records and won the gold. I was so happy for him.
Although I have a gold from Athens and a silver from Beijing from one of my other events, that bronze means more to me than any medal I’ve won. Very few people could have done what I did on that day. That medal will always remind me of all the things I had to overcome to get there — my history with that event and all of the media attention because of it; cancer; issues with access to my training facility in Minnesota, which eventually closed and I had to move my family back to Colorado; multiple equipment problems; as well as a bulging disc and quite a bit of back pain.
Even though it’s only a year later, it feels like a long time ago. To be honest, there have been so many changes going on in my life, I never really had a whole lot of time to put everything in perspective. Since London, my family has moved twice and we’ve now made the Czech Republic (my wife’s native country) home. We were also blessed with a new baby boy back in June. My family will always come first, so until life settles down a little bit, pondering about my own successes or failures in sports just isn’t that important. That said, though, I am back to training, albeit not quite at 100 percent yet. I still enjoy the game and trying to see just how good I can be. I know there’s another level I’m capable of and I want to see if I can get there. As far as Rio, though, the last four years took so much out of me, I don’t even want to think about the next Olympic Games right now. I still have some recovery to do to be prepared mentally for that challenge!
Matt Emmons is an Olympic shooter who has earned three medals across three Olympic Games. Prior to his first Games, Emmons' rifle was sabotaged, but he still managed to earn gold in the 50m rifle prone at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games using a borrowed rifle. Four years later, Emmons took silver in the 50m rifle prone event, but was still unable to medal in what was perhaps his best event, the 50m rifle three positions. Finally, at the London 2012 Olympic Games, everything came together for Emmons and he earned bronze in the event that had haunted him since his first Olympic Games.