Alaskans found plenty of bling in Beijing at the Summer Olympics.
Three Alaska athletes competed in the Games, and each left with a medal:
Carlos Boozer of Juneau helped the U.S. men's basketball team reclaim its status as the best basketball nation on the planet. A star for the Utah Jazz but a role player for Team USA, he only played one minute in Saturday night's gold-medal win over Spain -- but he savored the victory as much as anyone in uniform.
"We're so proud to be Americans," he told reporters after the game. "It's hard to put into words. I feel so honored to be a part of this team. We're going to be smiling for a long time."
Matt Emmons, a former star for the UAF rifle team who still lists Fairbanks as his home town, took silver in the 50-meter prone rifle competition.
A couple days later, Emmons, 27, was poised to win gold in the three-position rifle competition and had a seemingly insurmountable lead as he prepared to take his final shot. In the finals, he shot seven 10s in a row, an amazing display of skill.
His trigger finger was shaking a bit as he prepared to take his 130th shot of the day, and he accidently fired as he was lowering his rifle to aim at the center of his target.
The mistake knocked him into fourth place, a near-repeat of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. There, Emmons was again comfortably ahead going into his final shot in the three-position final, but he crossfired and hit the wrong target, falling from first place to eighth.
Like the last time, Emmons handled the setback with grace.
"I don't know why I am not supposed to win this event, but everything happens for a reason and it will be good motivation for me for the next four years," he told reporters after the event. "In an Olympic final to shoot that many 10s in a row, that's as good as it gets and I am happy with it. I would love to have a medal around my neck right now, but I had 129 really good shots today and a phenomenal final, so I really can't complain."
Corey Cogdell of Eagle River captured a bronze medal in women's trapshooting, and then mesmerized members of the international media with tales of moose hunting in Alaska.
Cogdell, who turns 22 next week, is a lifelong Alaskan. She was shooting tin cans and spruce hen at the family home in Chickaloon as a preschooler, and in 2004, she became the first woman and the first junior-division shooter to win the all-around championship at the state trapshooting championship, according to Dave Kaiser, who coached her when she was learning the sport at the Birchwood shooting range in Chugiak.
Cogdell was terrific in the trapshoot preliminaries, finishing with the third-best score to qualify for the six-person finals. She struggled in those, however, before regrouping to hit her final five targets and join a four-way shootoff for the bronze medal. She was the only shooter to break a target on the first shot of the tiebreaker, a feat that earned her third place and a spot on the victory podium.
We caught up with Cogdell via e-mail as things were wrapping up in Beijing to get her thoughts on being an Olympic medalist.
Q: Has your medal left your sight yet? Where do you put it if you don't have it with you?
A: I usually keep it locked away safely in my dresser drawer here in the village.
Q: What part of your competition, if any, replays in your mind?
A: The final replays in my mind pretty often. That was the only part of my competition that I was in any way disappointed with, so I do relive that and try and figure out what I could have done differently.
Q: Is the hunting-in-Alaska angle still a popular one with the media?
A: It has continued to be pretty popular, and of course I love talking about Alaska so it does not really get old.
Q: Tell me about the media you've done. Anything big in the works? Leno again, perhaps?
A: I have done a few bigger things such as the Today Show last week and an interview with Field & Stream. I was in the August issue of Field & Stream, and they will be doing an update in the November issue. I have been doing a few radio morning shows and other newspaper interviews as well.
Q: You've been a spectator ever since winning your medal on the first day of the Olympics. What's been the most fun thing you've seen?
A: It's hard to choose just one event because they all have been so much fun but if I had to choose one I would say gymnastics. The night that I was able to watch was the women's balance beam finals and our USA girls just did awesome winning gold and silver. Its so impressive to see the best athletes compete at such a high level.
Q: What's been your most memorable encounter with another athlete?
A: My most memorable encounters would have to be with the USA women's water polo team. They are such a great group of women, so passionate about their sport and great sportsmen. They were some of the first to give me a big hug and congratulate me.
Q: When do you return to Eagle River and for how long?
A: I will return to Alaska in early October. I will hopefully be staying until mid-November to enjoy some late season hunting and fishing.
Q: Other than your medal, what's the coolest souvenir or memory you'll bring home?
A: I will bring this whole trip home with me. Each day brings a new event to go see, a new teammate to cheer on. The longer I am here the more motivation it gives me for the next four years.
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.