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20 Aug 2004
Athens 2004

Emmons wins gold and finds love in adversity

Shooter Matthew Emmons won a gold medal in Athens, but it is probably for the manner in which he overcame adversity that he will be best remembered.

The American had to endure a series of misfortunes. For one thing, his rifle was mysteriously sabotaged in the run-up to the Games. When he took it out of a locker at the US training centre, he realised that it felt wrong, and sure enough a brief inspection showed that it had been tampered with and was no longer working properly.

Emmons, who was the reigning world champion in the 50 metre rifle three positions, was forced to borrow a weapon from his former university team-mate Amber Darlaand. It was to prove a blessing.

He prospered with his new rifle, winning the gold medal in the small-bore prone position in Athens by a margin of just over one point from Germany's Christian Lusch. Two days later he had the chance to make history when he lined up for the final of the three positions. Nobody had ever before won both events at the same Games.

Emmons got off to the ideal start, and by the time he readied himself for his final shot he had built up a very healthy three point lead, which in shooting terms, equated to a near unassailable advantage. But then something extraordinary happened – Emmons fired his final, crucial shot at completely the wrong target.

Instead of it being the shot that sealed his victory, Emmons final effort scored zero and he dropped to eighth place. His calamitous mistake made headlines around the world.

However, there was a substantial silver lining, even if he didn't know it at the time. Among those who came to offer sympathy was the Czech shooter Kateřna Kůrková. The pair got on so well that they married three years later.

In 2008 in Beijing, Emmons had to endure another painful mishap in the three positions final, as a twitchy finger caused him to misfire on his final shot, and he again dropped out of the medals in the dying moments.

He did, however, win a silver medal in the prone, while his wife, now competing under the name Katerina Emmons, won a gold and a silver in her events. In 2012, after overcoming further adversity when he recovered from thyroid cancer, Emmons won a bronze medal in the three positions at the London Games.


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