Olympic sharp-shooting couple takes home three medals, looks to 2012.When the games come to a close, 302 gold medals will have been awarded at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Katerina Emmons, a shooter from the Czech Republic, won the very first one.
Emmons was indeed the first athlete in Beijing to hear her national anthem played on the medal stand, amidst the awe and exuberation of being crowned an Olympic champion—a feeling made even more special by the person with whom she was able to share it.
Sometimes the toll of becoming an Olympian—the thousands of hours of training and travel and overall turbulence—can take its toll on a relationship. But not this couple. Not when both members are Olympic champions.
Matthew Emmons first tasted Olympic glory in Athens in 2004, winning gold in the men's small-bore prone rifle (50 meters) event. In fact, he almost became a double gold medalist before inexplicably shooting at the wrong target in the finals of a subsequent event, dropping him from first place into last.
"People know me for a lot of things besides the cross-fire," he said. "Whether they know me for that or whatever, I don't care."
It was an unimaginable mistake and a signature moment of the Athens Olympics, for all the wrong reasons. That is, until he was approached later that night by a female shooter who wished to offer her condolences. Her name, at the time, was Katerina Kurkova.
The two saw each other again weeks later at the shooting World Cup Final in Bangkok, and their chemistry was compelling. But both were in other relationships at the time, not to mention, living on the other side of the world from each other. But after a year of keeping their feelings bottled up, both Matt and Katy finally took a leap of faith and began dating.
He eventually proposed to her on Valentine's Day, and the two were married last year. And both agree that being Olympic athletes is not a detriment to their marriage—if anything, they say, it enhances it.
"I wouldn't trade having her by my side for anything," Matt said. "But it has been hard on us when the other is competing—it's difficult to keep your mind on your own game. Granted, at this Olympics it's been a little easier because we don't compete at the same time."
It stands to reason, then, that any such anxiety was surely alleviated as Matt watched Katy capture her first career gold medal in the women's 10-meter air rifle competition. "Her success gives me good energy and great motivation," he said.
Matt then followed that up with a silver medal of his own, and Katy countered with an additional bronze to give the couple a medal of every color in Beijing. But their collective success was quickly tempered when Matt committed another fatal error on his final Olympic shot, costing him an additional gold medal.
"Things happen for a reason," Matt said. "I said that last time, and it's the truth. Maybe last time, the reason was Katy. This time I don't know yet, but I'm sure something good's going to come from it."
After Matt's latest debacle, the delegation from the Czech Republic in Beijing opted to throw a party for Katy and Matt—in honor of both their Olympic performance, and, their blossoming marriage. The Czech prime minister was even in attendance, and the minister of the interior apparently offered to help Emmons become a dual citizen.
In short, no couple has been more popular in the Athletes Village here in Beijing than Matt and Katy Emmons.
"The past few days have been a roller-coaster ride, but not a bad one, because I like roller coasters," he said. "We're going home with three medals, so I can't complain. With her by my side, that's the most important thing. Whether I win or lose, she'll always be there supporting me."
Now the sharpshooting couple has their eye on the London Olympics in 2012. But Matt says there is an even bigger target dead-ahead.
"We want to start a family," he said.
(photo by Chen Gong)