USA shooter Matt Emmons deals with misses

8:07 AM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Rifle shooter Matthew Emmons poses for a portrait during the USOC Portrait Shoot at Smashbox West Hollywood on November 15, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images for USOC)

PHOTOS: CO's Matt Emmon shoots in rifle competition

That's just one of those rare mishaps that is unexplainable and not worth examining.

But then last month for the first time, Emmons watched with a sports psychologist his last shot in the same event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Needing just an average score to clinch gold, Emmons hit the trigger early and didn't come close to bullseye. No medal again.

"To be honest with you, it really didn't bother me that much to watch it. It was a great final. I was really happy with, especially the first eight shots. If I was going to teach anybody what they should do in a final, that's what you want to do. It was perfect."

But leading up to the Olympics, Emmons had been training to shoot that last shot a little bit faster than his normal rhythm.

"Shooting is a very big sport there. Seriously, millions of people know who I am there," Emmons said. "They're fans, and they know what's going on. While other people are shooting, the crowed does this 'ooh, ahh,' kind of thing, and it can be distracting. I had trained to shoot that shot a little bit faster, and in hindsight, that was the wrong strategy.

"You should never change your rhythm for any reason. You should have your normal rhythm and just take the best shot you can and deal with those distractions."

Emmons, who will compete in 10-meter air rifle and 50-meter three positions events, will go for his second gold medal in London. He didn't leave Beijing empty-handed, taking gold in the 10-meter event. His wife, Katy Emmons, shoots for the Czech Republic, and is also aiming for her second gold medal. She won the 10-meter air rifle event in Beijing, too, and won silver in the 50-meter three positions.

Matt and Katy met at the 2004 Athens Games. In a beer garden for athletes, Katy whose maiden name is Kurkova, approached Matt after his wrong-target debacle and gave him a four-leaf clover key ring. They met up again months later at a competition, began dating and married in 2007. Their daughter, Julia, was born in 2009, a year before Matt was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

My wife says it really well. She says, 'For me, there is no last shot.' Even though this may be her last Olympics, she's like, 'This is not the last shot I'll ever take.' There's no extra pressure. She knows she will shoot for fun later. It's not a big deal. Even for me, I just like to play the game. The Olympics is the biggest thing we do. We'll have this Olympics. There's going to be another one in 2016 and there's going to be another one in 2020.

It's great that we do the same thing. There are stretches where we have to be apart. That part is not so much fun. At the same time, when you have someone next to you who knows exactly what it's like to be in your shoes especially with her. She knows what it is like to stand in position No. 1 at the Olympic finals. She knows what it's like to compete in an Olympics finals. She knows all the feelings. That's a huge asset. The pros, by far, outweigh the cons.

When she's competing, it's extremely nerve-racking. It's very tough. I'm competing in two events. She's competing in two events. For me, it's like four days of competition because of the stress. On the days she's competing, I'm going to be wrapped pretty tight, and I'll be more nervous than when I'm competing.

There is a window that athletes have, but I'm 31 years old but I'm really getting into the prime for male rifle shooters. Your early to mid-30s is technically the prime area, and I feel good. I'm still having fun. I'm still motivated. I'm still trying to see how good I can be. I've had two fantastic performances in the Olympics, and honestly I love the Olympics. I love a big challenge, and to stand there in front of the world and compete for your country, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

I really enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter off the range. It's something I hold in a special place. I really enjoy that time, and with my family and friends. We lead some pretty good lives.

I enjoy hunting, hiking, camping. It's so relaxing to be out in nature. When I go hunting, if I'm able to harvest something and bring it home and fill the freezer, that's fantastic, but if I don't, that's great, too. I love cross-country skiing, cycling, running, pretty much any type of outdoor activity. I love watching hockey.

There are no signs of cancer. I went back for a follow-up check in June. I have to go back every six months. I went back in June right after our Olympic trials. They checked on my hormone levels because I have to take a thyroid supplement every day since I don't have a thyroid. They were fine. They did the ultrasound and the other markers that they do. I feel great now.

By Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY

(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)

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