Top-flight competition has a tension all of its own, but the women’s 10m air rifle in 2008 had the added excitement of knowing victory would secure the first gold medal of the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Four years earlier, Czech Katerina Kurkova discovered two things when she claimed bronze in the event in Athens; the first was renewed motivation to win gold and the second was love.
It was after clinching bronze that she met Matt Emmons. Her bronze secured, Kurkova took up the role of TV commentator and was the expert analyst as her future husband made the basic error of shooting at the wrong target in the 50m event.
The two struck up a conversation after Emmons’ spectacular gaffe and three years later the pair married.
The daughter of two-time world champion Petr Kurka, Kurkova – or Emmons as she was called by the time Beijing came around – was the strong favourite for gold from the moment she fired a perfect score of 400 in qualifying – that’s 40 consecutive bullseyes.
The 2002 world champion, a victory secured at just 18, was almost flawless in the final with an Olympic record of 503.5 to leave Russian Lioubov Galkina in silver-medal position and Croatia’s Snjezana Pejcic in bronze.
Emmons’ reaction on winning was instinctive. She dashed into the arms of her watching husband in the front row.
Her win was a massive disappointment to the eager home crowd which had been hoping to get the Games off to a winning start through Du Li, but the favourite and Olympic champion suffered too many lapses in focus and had to settle for fifth.