Beijing Shooting Range Hall

The great Chinese party is well and truly underway, but at the shooting range this morning it felt like it had been thoroughly pooped.

After the most lavish Opening Ceremony ever staged, the home nation planned to be celebrating the first gold medal of the games by half way through the first morning.

Du Li did it in Athens - could she do it in Beijing too?

The crowd of slightly bleary-eyed Chinese journalists who joined me on the 7.10am media bus to Shijingshan full expected her to be celebrating a successful defence of her title in the 10m air rifle by around 10.50am.

The fans pouring into the venue were all waving red flags with yellow stars on.

1.3bn people expecting a glorious start to the games - the pressure on Du's slender shoulders couldn't have been greater...

She'd already talked about the problem of performing in front of her home fans.

In competitions overseas she wasn't put off by the chatter of the crowd, because she couldn't understand what they were saying - in China, she could.

"Mother tongue interference", her coach called it.

I don't think I can take the blame for putting her off - my Mandarin still only extends to two words - but I found myself whispering like Ted Lowe at the Crucible when Radio 5 Live crossed to me for live updates during the final.

Du was already trailing in fourth place after qualifying. Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic had demolished the field with a world record equalling score of 400 - effectively shooting 40 bullseyes in a row.

And as Emmons kept popping her shots into the centre circle of her target, Du was spraying hers around all over the place.

The crowd groaned, the flags sagged, Du looked more and more downcast, and as she slipped to fifth she broke down in tears, and fled the range without talking to reporters.

A sad ending to the first morning on the range for China - but if you're a sucker for happy endings, here's one for you.


At the Athens Olympics, Katerina Emmons was working as a guest commentator for TV on a day off from her own competition, and she found herself watching the final of the men's 50m three position event.

The defending champion from America needed only to hit the target with his final shot to retain the gold medal. Inexplicably, he fired at completely the wrong target, registered no points and finished 8th.

At the end of the competition, Katerina left her commentary position to commiserate with the young shooter. His name was Matthew Emmons, and - you guessed it - they fell in love, and married last year.

Matthew will have another go at winning back his gold in the final shooting event of the Games a week on Sunday. Get ready for those Golden Couple headlines if he does it...


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