American deer hunter plays safe with burgers

BEIJING (Reuters) - A bad ham sandwich in Sydney eight years ago taught Walton Eller an important lesson -- stick to American hamburger and pizza.

The deer hunter from Texas won the gold medal in the men’s double trap on Tuesday, a lopsided victory that erased painful memories of food poisoning from a rotten sandwich in Australia that may have cost him an Olympic medal in 2000.

“I just went out and ate a sandwich somewhere and felt terrible,” Eller told journalists. The American was forced to spend two days in bed in Sydney. “I still competed. I just felt terrible. I was just glad none of that happened here.”

Eller, who stands 6 foot 3 (1.91) and weighs 174 pounds (79 kg), finished 12th in 2000. In Athens in 2004 his preparations were hampered by a pinched nerve in his neck and he was 17th.

He has taken no chances with his diet in Beijing.

“I stuck with mostly McDonalds and had some pizza last night,” said the 26-year-old, a member of the U.S. army team.

Eller was once again considered among the favorites after winning the 2007 World Cup final in Belgrade. He won gold at the 2003 world championships and silver in 2002.

“It was great having my whole family here,” he said. “They’ve been to the last two Olympics watching me and now finally winning gold for them is incredible.”

He goes deer hunting to help him relax.

“It’s something me and my father grew up doing,” he said. “I love going down hunting, especially deer hunting because I shoot a gun every day,” he said. “I love going down and relaxing and just getting to hang out with my family and go hunting.”

Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Ed Osmond