Eight years after a misfire in Athens, and four years after a tactical error in Beijing on the last shots of the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions competition, Matt Emmons was able to hit a mark on his last shot that put him on the medal stand.
Emmons finished the competition with a score of 1271.3 for a bronze medal. It goes well with the gold and silver medals he earned in 2004 and 2008, respectively, in 50m rifle prone.
Niccolo Campriani, a good friend of Emmons’ from Italy, won the gold medal after shooting an Olympic record, 1278.5. Jonghyun Kim of the Republic of Korea was able to pass Emmons on the final shot of the competition to finish with a score of 1272.5 and a silver medal.
The other U.S. competitor, Jason Parker, finished in 30th place with a score of 1159 in qualifying.
In his previous two Olympic Games, the last shot knocked him off the medal stand. On Monday, Emmons said the last shot was not affected by an outside factor.
“Really on the last shot I was shaking so much,” said Emmons. “It was just pure nerves.”
Even though a final shot of 7.6 (out of a maximum 10.9) did knock Emmons down to the bronze medal, the expression on his face after the competition was of pure relief.
The three-time Olympian was elated with his ability to finally finish off this competition at an Olympic Games.
“Just to be on the podium at the Olympics is a very special thing,” Emmons said. “I am very happy to be up there with bronze. Given what I had to work with today, it was a really tough match. It was probably the toughest match I’ve ever had to shoot.”
In the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Emmons broke away from his normal routine on his last shot. He said he tried to pull the trigger more quickly in order to take away the crowd noise from being a distraction. Nearly four years after what he called a poor strategy in Beijing, Emmons entered London with a much different approach to his final shot.
“This time, I said, ‘Okay, I am just going to deal with it. I am just going to get in my own world, take the very best shot I can and see what happens,’” Emmons said. “That was a much better choice.”
His shots in the seventh, eighth and ninth series placed Emmons in a comfortable position. He scored a 10.7, 10.6 and 10.5 leading into the final shot of the afternoon. “When you’re able to make some good ones, it gives you a little bit of relief that you don’t have to make all of the shots perfect,” said Emmons. “Anytime in a final, I try to keep it in the moment. A lot of those shots I was pretty nervous, they came down and settled halfway decent.”
Emmons has had a busy and stressful four years leading into these Olympic Games. Between 2008 and his bronze medal victory on Monday, Emmons welcomed his first child into the world, moved to Minnesota to help grow the local shooting community, moved back to Colorado Springs and battled thyroid cancer.
“It all has made me a lot tougher,” said Emmons. “Honestly, just to be here is a privilege for me after going through a situation like that. Just to be alive is good.”
As gold medal-winner Campriani talked about their relationship during a press conference, Emmons was in tears. “It’s not how you win, but how you handle the loss that tells you if you’re a champion or not,” Campriani said. “He’s a model for me, an inspiration and I’m really, really happy that he’s with me today because he’s just a great champion.”