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3P Rifle Preview: Target Never More Clear for Emmons

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (August 13, 2016)

After nine days of competition, we’ve come to the final day of action at the Deodoro Shooting Center and there’s plenty of intrigue in Men’s Three-Position Rifle to put a fitting conclusion on the 2016 Olympic Games for the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team.

Three-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, New Jersey) gets set for his Rio Olympic debut, trying to add another superlative to an already impressive rifle career as the world’s No.1-ranked 3P Rifle shooter.  With a medal Sunday, Emmons would become just the third rifle athlete ever to earn four individual Olympic medals.  China’s Di Lu did so earlier in the Games.  The only other to do so was America’s Carl Osburn, who won four medals over three Olympic Games in 1912, 1920 and 1924. Italian Niccolo Campriani, a winner in the Men’s Air Rifle event in Rio and two-time medalist in London including gold in this very event, could also accomplish the feat as well with a podium finish.

Dan Lowe (Olympia, Washington) will also be on the line Sunday morning trying to build upon a 34th-place finish in Air Rifle in his first Olympic opportunity.   

During Air Rifle, the U.S. Army Specialist Lowe came off the line hoping that his sighters (pre-match practice shots) could have counted and a greater realization for the need of a stronger mental game when shooting the biggest match on the planet. Lowe, who competes as part of the U.S. Army's Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), had it going in his warm-up shots shooting a 105.7 and 106.2 in each of the 10-shot strings he fired downrange. But, once the match started he couldn’t find that form again with his highest string a 105.0 sandwiched in with three strings in the 102s.

For far too long, someone other than Emmons had always been the storyteller; the script all too predictable, the vernacular all too harsh. In the lexicon of sport, labels like choke artist aren’t easy to accept and they’re even tougher to try and defend.  

Thus, it’s exactly why Emmons simply refused to listen. And it’s why August 6, 2012, might just prove to be the definitive moment in a career of dazzling highlights. That day in London, the final shot he was looking for still didn’t come, but the medal sure did; the one that had eluded him for eight painstaking years. 

With it came the opportunity to change the conversation from one of misfortune to that of greatness. Sure, the pundits can write Emmons’ Olympic history any number of ways. Some may choose to focus on the gaffes that cost him two Olympic medals and very nearly a third. But the body of work suggests a much more powerful anecdote, one that places the three-time Olympic medalist among the all-time greats in this craft. Simply put, Emmons is one of the best marksmen in history.

“Matt is in his own class,” said rifle great Glenn Dubis back in 2003 when he coached him his senior season at Alaska Fairbanks. “He’s a prodigy, he is, in a way a genius.”  

Thirteen years later, Emmons has honored that sentiment tenfold. The unduplicated college career, three Olympic medals, the two Olympic close-calls, 43 World Cup medals and three World Championship medals have helped shaped his legacy. You don’t talk about sports legacy without shiny trinkets.  He gets the chance Sunday to add another one.

But one’s legacy is only truly formed by how you choose to react in the face of adversity, and by the character, conviction and compassion you display. Through 20 years of shooting, perhaps no one has left a more indelible mark on his sport than Matt and it has come in success, failure, heartache and triumph.  

Asked how he sees his legacy, Matt responds like this. 

“I think a lot of it has to do with the way I play the game. I want to be known as a true sportsman who competed hard and played the game the right way. I wasn’t going to give it to anybody, but at the same time, if you get beat you shake the other guy’s hand. I always want to set a good example for not only other shooters but other people in sports of the way that a person can be a good competitor but a good person at the same time.  Also, I want people to remember that I was the guy who made you earn it.  Not that I had to win every match, but if I lost a match, I definitely made you earn it.”

Of regret, he has none. So comfortable with who he is, what he has accomplished and where he’s headed, that he even has a virtuous perspective on the career bobbles, not afraid to be defined by them any longer. 

“They absolutely do define my career, but in a good way,” Matt said of his near misses. “I came to terms with those things back in 2012. I finally started thinking about it in a different way.  I thought back to what if I had won that first or second medal, what would have happened? Would the story be as good?  But more importantly, would have I learned as much. The things I’ve learned in the process, about myself, the sport and life in general, I wouldn’t trade that for anything or any amount of money. My life and my shooting career are so much richer because of those experiences. The way I look at it tells a much different and better story.” 

Matt Emmons, the greatest shooter of our time, has embraced sour adversity, no doubt. His defiance to not let it consume him nor let it unseat a champion’s will might be his greatest triumph. As he gets set to write the next great chapter in a story tale career, the great part is knowing that he is now the master of his own destiny.

Team USA & U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit rifle shooter Dan Lowe, pictured here with his Air Rifle, will compete Sunday in his second event in Rio.In Three-Position Rifle, athletes shoot over a distance of 50 meters or 165 feet in kneeling, prone and standing positions, using a .22 caliber rifle with a maximum weight of 6.5 kilograms (14.33 pounds). The center of the target is positioned at two and a half feet above the floor and its total diameter measures six inches across. This is just a little smaller than the diameter of a professional soccer ball. The diameter of the tenth ring measures less than a half an inch. That means these shooters are aiming at a ten ring smaller than a dime 165 feet away. The use of specialized clothing is allowed to improve the stability of the shooting positions, but must meet strict flexibility standards to prevent cheating of any sort.

The world record of 1186/1200 points was scored by Nazar Louginets of Russia in 2014. The title of Olympic Champion will be defended by Niccolò Campriani of Italy. Matthew Emmons is ranked number one in the world for this event.

Format: During qualification, every competitor has to fire 40 kneeling shots, 40 prone shots and 40 standing shots within a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The qualifications are scored in integer points, with the maximum score per shot being 10 points, and the maximum qualification score being 1200 points. The top eight athletes from the qualification phase advance to the final match, where they can shoot up to 45 final shots. The maximum score for each shot is 10.9 points, because of an additional set of 10 rings within the 10-point circle that increases the score of 0.1 points as it approaches the center of the target. This sets the highest possible score at 490.5 points. The eight finalists start the match with zero points: the qualification score is not carried forward into the final round. The final begins with three series of five shots in the kneeling position to be fired within 200 seconds, followed by a seven minutes changeover time. Three more series of five shots in the prone position are then fired within 150 seconds, followed by a second interval of nine minutes. Two series of five shots open the standing position phase of the match, at the end of which the two lowest aggregate score is eliminated from the final, placing seventh and eighth. The five final single shots are fired on command and within 50 seconds, with any following elimination determined by every shot until the gold and silver medalists are decided by the 45th and conclusive shot. If there is a tie for the lowest ranking athlete to be eliminated, the tied athletes will fire additional tie-breaking single shots until the tie is broken.

Qualification – 8:00 – 10:45 a.m. ET

Finals – 12:00 a.m.  | FINALS LIVESTREAM starting at 12:00 a.m. ET

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National Shooting Sports Foundation