When I first read in the newspapers that Olympic gold medal marksman Matt Emmons was from Browns Mills, New Jersey, as almost all the news reports describe him, I knew he was either in the military or he was a Piney.
He's a Piney.
Browns Mills, you can imagein, even if you've never been there, is not that big a place. It is big enough however, for me to also live in Browns Mills, within a few miles of Matt and not know him. I know some of his family. There's a lot of Emmons around these parts.
After winning an Olympic gold medal in Greece in 2002, Emmons was set to win another, precident setting two gold medals. Shooting for another gold, one shot away, target in his sights, and he got a bulls eye, but in the wrong target.
So when all the stories went out from Athens about the gaff, it was Matt Emmons, from Browns Mills, N.J. who shot at the wrong target.
Browns Mills, in the heart of the Jersey Pines, is adjacent to Fort Dix, so there's a lot of military families that have settled down around Mirror Lake. Matt's father, "Dickie" Emmons is the rifle range manager of sorts, a civilian in charge of maintainging the ranges, many of which run along Range Road, where you can hear guns popping off all the time, even in the rain.
Then there's also some multi-generational farmers, fishermen, hunters and locals who are colloqually refered to as "Pineys," similar in style to hillbillys in West Virginia.
After graduating from Pemberton High School and college in Alaska, where he was just inagurated (or was that indicted) into a Nanook Hall of Fame, Emmons settled down in Colorado, where the U.S. Olympic team works out, and where he attened gradate school.
When he shot at the wrong target in the attempt at a second gold metal in Athens, the young girl on the Check team came over to offer her condolenses. The next time they crossed paths, at the next international competition, they talked again, and really hit it off. Her father, the Check shooting coach, is world renown, and has already agreed to coach the Australian team after these Olympics are over. So Matt and his Check girlfriend got married in Checkaslovakia last June, 2007, when some of the Emmons from Browns Mills went over for the gala affair.
Like a wayward "Wrong Way" Corrigan, Matt is back again this year, making the Olympic team and hoping he'll get a chance to redeem himself, and bring a few more gold medals home.
Emmons is a common name in these parts. There's Emmons Farms, and there's an Emmons on some council, and some who aren't related.
Matt Emmons' family live near Range Road, just across the street from Fort Dix firing range, thus Range Road, where the cracks of rifle fire can be heard at all times of the day, and sometimes at night.
Shooting competatively since he was a very young kid, Pat Looney, his little league coach, remembers Matt as being more interested in shooting than baseball back then. Matt Emmons, he says, is just a good college kid who can shoot really, really good.
Shooting a rifle is part of growing up in Browns Mills.
Now as he heads out for Bejing, there will be more on Matt Emmons later.
American Matt Emmons, the 2004 Olympic champion in prone rifle, had already secured spots for Beijing in prone and three-position rifle.
Ft. Benning (WTVM) - Monday was Day Two of the USA Shooting National Championships at the Pool International Shooting Complex.
The Men's Air Rifle Final was dominated by two Beijing Olympians. Three Position and Prone Rifle qualifier Matt Emmons fired a 105.7 in the final round to win the national title. Sergeant First Class Jason Parker of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) finished second, two points back. He qualified for Beijing in Men's Air Rifle and Three Position Rifle.
Both are using this event to fine tune their gear and their mind for the Olympics. Emmons said that his "hold has gotten better, and my trigger control's better, so there's a lot of technical things that have improved. And my mental game's kinda coming along, too, which is good."
Sgt. 1st Class Parker has been "working a lot on physical conditioning, and feel good physical-wise and mental-wise. Everything's good, the equipment is in top form, and I'm real happy with that."
Here's the scoop on the shooters from Sports Network:
And the highlights on our Main Man Matt:
..In both the rifle and pistol events 10-ring targets are utilized, with a number of the individual rounds having their own unique set of rules which shooters must follow in order to score points.
It should come as little surprise that the United States has had the most success in shooting over the years, the nation's 49 gold medals alone almost as many as the total number of medals (57) logged by the Soviet Union/USSR.
In Athens four years ago the Americans were poised to add to that impressive total, specifically Matt Emmons, but in what has to be considered one of the greatest blunders in recent Olympic history, Emmons went from leading in the 50m three position rifle final to an eighth-place finish when his final shot fired at the wrong target in a different lane. The agonizing faux pas allowed China's Jia Zhando to capture the gold.....
And how about this tidbit:
.....Rarely does an Olympic competitor have trouble getting his/her equipment over to the host country, but it wasn't until the end of June that U.S. marksmen learned they'd be permitted to bring their own firearms with them to Beijing. President Bush cleared the way for shooters to bring their own guns over to the Olympics with barely a month remaining before departure, which is akin to having softball players bring their own gloves.
Now that's locking the gate after the cat's out of the bag, or however that goes.
I wonder if Matt will get to meet President Bush and his right hand man, Eddie Gillespie, another native son of Browns Mills, New Jersey.
Nevertheless, the sharpshooters to keep an eye on from the United States include Vincent Hancock, the current world record holder in skeet shooting. Just 19-years old, Hancock made it look rather easy during the three-day U.S. Trials by posting a perfect 25 in the final round to earn his way to the 2008 Games.
A bit longer in the tooth is Emmons who now resides in Colorado Springs after finding true love at the 2004 Games and subsequently married Katerina Kurkova, an Athens silver medalist in air rifle for the Czech Republic. At least he came back from Greece with something positive to talk about after his problems finding the right target. Needless to say, Emmons has the added pressure of making up for his mistake from four years ago.
However, Emmons is not the only shooter who to have his issues on the target range in Athens. Michael Anti, who is heading to his fourth Olympic Games, could have pulled out the gold medal himself in the 3-position competition, but instead settled for the silver four years ago after squeezing off one too many shots while in the kneeling position of the event. If nothing else, his finish in Greece was still far beyond his previous success, with Anti finishing no higher than eighth place in 1992 or 2000.