Born: April 5, 1981
Town: Mount Holly
Matthew D. Emmons was born April 5, 1981 in Mount Holly. His father, Louis, ran a military shooting range and got Matt into the sport in his early teens. Matt was active and athletic, but shooting requires a near-perfect degree of stillness. He demonstrated a rare ability to combine all of these components and impressed Paul Adamowski, an FBI firearms instructor, who agreed to coach him.
While attending attended Pemberton Township High School, Matt made the junior national team in 1997 and set several new records. He specialized in the challenging .22 rifle three-position event. It involved shooting at a target 50 meters away from prone, kneeling and standing positions. He was particularly good from the prone position. Matt continued his shooting career with a scholarship to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Nanooks won four NCAA team titles while he was there and he won four individual championships between 1999 and 2003. Matt won gold at the World Cup in 2002 at the age of 21. He won again in 2004.
Heading into the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Matt was the odds-on favorite to win both the prone and three-position competitions. However, prior to the competition, he discovered that someone had sabotaged his gun. Matt borrowed a replacement rifle from his college teammate Amber Darland and won the gold medal in the 50 meters prone. He then dominated the three-position competition. Matt was leading with one shot to go but inexplicably hit the wrong target. The resulting penalty dropped him to the bottom of the standings.
Matt had been one shot away from unprecedented double-gold in the two events, and was beside himself. A Czech shooter, Katerina Kurkova, saw his disappointment and consoled him. They began dating and eventually married in 2007. Her father, Petr Kurka, was a three-time Olympian in the sport and coached the Austrian team. In 2008, Matt was honored as an inaugural member of the Alaska Fairbanks Athletic Hall of Fame. However, his career was far from over.
Indeed, Matt competed in three more Olympics. He won silver in the 50 meters prone event in 2008 in Beijing and nearly medaled in the three-position. After battling thyroid cancer in 2010 and 2011, he won bronze in the three-position competition in 2012 in London. Matt also made the US team in 2016 but failed to medal in Rio, finishing 19th. In 2018, Matt took a step towards his fifth Olympic appearance when he won silver as a member of the U.S. 50 meters prone team at the World Shooting Championships in South Korea.