(Adds news conference quotes)
By Erik Kirschbaum
BEIJING, Aug 17 (Reuters) - American Matt Emmons threw away a gold medal on his final shot on Sunday when he nervously pulled the trigger a split second too soon -- a stunning blunder that revived memories of 2004 when he also lost gold on the last shot.
Emmons, the world’s most famous Olympic shooter for firing at the wrong target on his last shot in Athens four years ago and throwing away a 3-point lead, was again leading the men’s 50m rifle three-positions event by 3.3 points after nine rounds.
He only needed a 6.7 on the last of his 10 shots in the final after hitting the bullseye for a 10.0 or more on seven of his previous nine shots. But disaster struck once again -- Emmons got a 4.4 and dropped to fourth.
“It’s just a crazy thing that happens,” Emmons told reporters. “It accidently went off. That’s pretty much what happened.”
Qiu Jian of China won gold and Emmons finished fourth. The American said his finger squeezed the trigger just before he was ready to fire, wiping out his huge 3.3-point lead in a sport where fractions of a point separate the winners and losers.
Ukraine’s Jury Sukhorukov won silver and Slovenia’s Rajmond Debevec the bronze.
“I won this gold medal with a bit of luck,” said Qiu after collecting China’s fifth shooting gold medal on the final day of the 15-event competition. China had won four golds in Athens.
Emmons, a 27-year-old accountant from New Jersey who won a silver medal on Friday in the men’s 50m prone event, appeared stunned when his final shot registered 4.4 after he had shot so brilliantly through nine final rounds and 120 in qualifying.
He was nevertheless able to smile at the strange turn of events -- so eerily similar to the last shot debacle in Athens.
“The way I come into a target is I start above the target and come down from 12 o’clock and get into the bullseye,” said Emmons, whose Czech wife Katerina won a gold and silver in Beijing.
”And as I get down into the bullseye is when I start to get on the trigger (with my finger) and as I was starting to get on the trigger, the gun just went off.
”I guess I just set it off. I got on the trigger a little too hard. I didn’t feel my finger shaking but I guess it was. It just hit the trigger, the gun went off and I was like ‘Uh, that’s not going to be good -- I hope it hit the black’.
“It hit the black, but a little high,” he said, flashing a wry smile.
“If the shot had made it all the way down to the bullseye, it’d have been pretty decent.” (Editing by Nick Macfie)