America’s Matt Emmons celebrated Independence Day by staging a come-from-behind victory in the men’s 50-meter prone rifle event at the 2002 ISSF World Championships in Lathi, Finland.
The subject of a feature interview in ‘U.S.A Today’ on July 2, Emmons candidly expressed a deep-seated dread of choking in the finals of a major international competition. Confronting those fears head-on and rising to the occasion, the 21-year-old senior at the University of Alaska Fairbanks trailed Norway’s Espen Berg-Knutsen by two points at 596 of a possible 600 points entering the 10-shot medals round final.
A stellar 103.7 final round score from the Browns Mills, N.J., native quickly overtook the veteran Norseman to win his first world championship gold medal, with Rajmond Debevec of Slovenia taking the silver with a combined score of 698.8, followed by Espen-Knutsen in third place with a 698.3.
Other American finishes included a 10th-place tie from the U.S. Naval Reserve’s Eric Uptagrafft, 36, a 1996 U.S. Olympian from Longmont, Colo., with a score of 593, and a 45th-place tie with a 586 from U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shooter Tom Tamas, 36, a 2000 U.S. Olympian from Columbus, Ga. The U.S.A finished fourth in the team competition behind Russia.
Matt Emmons (left) and Joe Hein are all smiles after winning gold at the ISSF World Championships.
Hein Wins Junior Gold
Emmons’ UAF teammate, Joe Hein, 20, of Mason, Mich., took home the gold medal in the men’s junior prone rifle competition with a score of 589. Other American finishes in the event included one from a Kentucky Wildcat, Bradley Wheeldon, 20, of Eubank, Ky., ending the match in a tie for 19th with a score of 581, followed by Matt Rawlings, 17, of Wharton, Texas, in a tie for 38th with a score of 575. The U.S.A’s junior men’s prone team took the bronze medal, behind teams from Germany and Russia.
The women’s 50-meter prone rifle match found UAF Nanook Amber Darland, 22, as the top U.S. finisher in a tie for ninth place with a score of 590. Sarah Blakeslee, 16, of Vancouver, Wash., finished in a tie for 20th with a score of 587, followed by Mary Elsass, 25, of Poquoson, Va., in a tie for 24th at 586. The U.S. women’s prone team finished sixth in the world meet.
The junior women from the U.S.A faired a bit better in the 50-meter prone rifle event, with Jamie Beyerle, 17, of Lebanon, Pa., ending the match in seventh place with a score of 584, followed by Celeste Green, 18, of Lufkin, Texas, in 13th with a 580, and Reya Kempley, 19, of Reno, Nev., finishing in a tie for 17th with a 578. The U.S. junior women’s prone team brought home the bronze medal, losing in a tiebreaker to the team from Russia.
On the shotgun field, 20-year-old Glenn Eller, a 2000 U.S. Olympian was able to bring home the silver medal in the men’s double-trap event. The Auburn University business major from Katy, Texas, won his prize after a marathon 14-target shoot-off duel with Joonas Olkkonen of Finland, ending with an aggregate score of 187 targets.
Other American finishes included Jeff Holguin, 23, a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center from Yorba Linda, Calif., ending in a tie for 23rd at 134, while Bill Keever, 26, a U.S.AMU shooter from Phenix City, Ala., ended the match in a tie for 26th with a score of 133. The U.S. men’s team finished just out of the medals in fourth position, behind Kuwait.
Junior Men’s Double Trap Team Wins
The junior men’s double trap event proved golden for America’s Adam Curtis, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., taking top honors with a score of 134, a two-point margin over Stefano Ales of Italy. Bryan Marshall, 19, of Troutdale, Ore., took ninth place with a 123, while Kevin Parrott, 17, of London, Ky., finished one-point back in a tie for 10th to round out the American junior showing. The young U.S. trio was able to bring home yet another gold in the junior team match, ahead of teams from Italy and Great Britain.
The women’s double trap event found two-time U.S. Olympic medallist Kim Rhode, 23, of El Monte, Calif., posting the top American finish in the fifth position with a 139 score. A pair of U.S.AMU shooters, Theresa DeWitt, 39, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Joetta Dement, 30, of Renton, Wash., finished ninth and 12th, respectively. The U.S. women’s team took home the silver medal in the event, behind China.
The U.S. junior women found Kirby Anderson, 18, of Smithfield, R.I., taking home a bronze medal with a score of 94 targets. Stephanie Williams, 17, of Las Vegas, Nev., finished sixth with a score of 87, followed by Anderson’s older sister Kate, 20, in ninth place with an 81. The junior U.S. women’s team brought home the silver medal, behind China.
Held every four years, the ISSF World Championships are second only to the Olympic Games in media attention, and due to the much larger field of competitors in each event, are considered by many observers as the most demanding test of shooting skills in the world. Along with world championship titles, top finishers at the Finland matches will secure coveted Olympic quota lots for their nations, guaranteeing their country a starting position in that shooting event at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
After the first day’s competition, the U.S.A leads in the medal count with 10, ahead of China’s seven and Italy’s four. The world meet will contest more than two dozen events for both men and women, and will conclude on July 16th. Full results of the ISSF World Championships are available on the web at: