Just about everyone expected Ralf Schumann to win rapid-fire pistol in Sydney. He had taken Olympic silver in 1988, and then gold in both 1992 and 1996. He had also won multiple world titles and was, at 38, still blessed with the poise, balance, vision and confidence that top shooters need.
However, by his own exalted standards, he underperformed. In the qualifying round he finished only seventh and then just scraped into the final itself, where, having been penalised two points for protesting one of his scores, he ended up outside the medals.
In his absence, the battle for victory quickly boiled down to three shooters – Russia's Sergei Alifirenko, Michel Ansermat of Switzerland and Romania's Iulian Raicea.
The three men entered the final round tied on 587 points. While the performance levels were not the greatest the drama was huge as the three remained neck and neck.
Anermat looked to be the first to crack as he scored just 8.7 with his second shot and dropped behind the other two. Then came a slip from Alifirenko that allowed Raicea to open up a slender 0.5 point lead after three shots. However, there was another dramatic twist still to come.
Having hit the front, Anermat wobbled. Four of his next six shots missed the 10 ring, costing him valuable points, while Alifirenko managed to maintain some consistency. The Russian's final shot hit the target and duly sealed victory by the margin of 1.5 points.
What made his gold medal even more special was that he had beaten Schumann in a straight battle. The German was the shooter he had copied and the beaten champion was such a hero for him that Alifrenko had kept a photo of him in his own training room.
Schumann had endured a bad day, and his Russian admirer had taken advantage in spectacular fashion.