Matt Emmons, the shooting star who used to shine for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, watched an Olympic gold medal slip away on his final shot in the 3-position rifle competition.
Comfortably in the lead after nine shots during the finals this morning in China, Emmons inexplicably faltered on his 10th and final shot.
He scored 4.4 points out of a possible 10.9 -- a stunning result, given his previous low in the round was 9.7, and nobody in the eight-man finals had shot lower than 7.7.
All he needed for the gold was 6.7, something someone like Emmons -- considered one of the best in the world in this event -- could seemingly do blindfolded.
The gold was gone. So was the silver and bronze.
Emmons, 27, who captured a silver medal earlier in these Olympics in the 50-meter prone competition, finished fourth, 1.4 points away from bronze and 2.2 points away from gold.
He said his rifle went off as he lowered it to focus on the middle of the target.
"I got on the trigger a little too hard," Emmons told reporters afterwards. "I didn't feel my trigger finger shaking but I guess it was. It just hit the trigger, the gun went off and I was like, uh, that's not going to be good."
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is.
Gold in 3-position rifle, which combines prone, kneeling and standing positions, proved elusive four years ago in Athens, too.
That time, Emmons was again ahead by a sizeable margin entering his final shot. That time, he crossfired, hitting a target other than his own. The gold that seemed certain vanished. He wound up with no medal at all.
In the aftermath, though, a shooter from the Czech Republic walked over to offer condolences and to say she thought he'd handled the monumental mistake with poise.
Today, they're married.
Katerina Emmons, winner of two shooting medals in Beijing, and one in Athens, was again at Emmons' side, comforting him in defeat.
The couple will have to make do with their three medals in Beijing. Neither will compete again at these Olympics.
Emmons was the No. 2 qualifier after 120 shots in the preliminaries Saturday, finishing with 1,175 out of a possible 1,200 points.
In the finals, he took command early, grabbing the lead with his third shot. He kept it right until the bitter end.
Emmons' mistake gave the gold to China's Jian Qui, who finished with 1,272.5 points. Ukraine's Yuriy Sukhorukov took silver with 1,272.4, and Slovenia's Rajmond Debevec took bronze with 1,271.7.
Emmons finished with 1,270.3 -- and a repeat tale of the one that got away.
At least he gets to keep the girl.
"He's definitely the best standing shooter out there," Katerina Emmons said. "If he can still end up fourth with a 4.4 on the last shot, that's a hell of a shooter."
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.