When a biathlete squeezes the trigger, it takes just .15 seconds to strike a two-inch target 50 meters away. The precision is incomprehensible. Matt Emmons, an Olympic shooting gold medalist, has brought a new range of knowledge as U.S. Biathlon Team shooting coach. Emmons tells a story of a challenging sport and how he’s making a difference for his athletes in this episode of Heartbeat.
Matt Emmons: Staying on Target
When a biathlete squeezes the trigger, it takes just .15 seconds to strike a two-inch target 50 meters away. The precision is incomprehensible. Matt Emmons, an Olympic shooting gold medalist, has brought a new range of knowledge as U.S. Biathlon Team shooting coach. Emmons tells a story of a challenging sport and how he’s making a difference for his athletes in this episode of Heartbeat: Staying on Target with Matt Emmons
Now in his fifth season with the team, Emmons has brought skill development to athletes but, most of all, a sense of confidence on the range. And it’s shown!
An accomplished shooter, Emmons picked up cross country skiing while he attended school in Fairbanks, Ak. It was a natural move, in a way, when he came to U.S. Biathlon in 2017. In the interview, Emmons goes into great detail about the integration of cross country skiing with shooting, and the minute elements that can make a difference on the range.
Talking to Emmons you’re quickly struck by his down-to-earth attitude and the wealth of knowledge he is eager to share. Talk to athletes and his name invariably comes up. But what really stood out in his Heartbeat interview was the lesson he’s learned from sport and the philosophy he shares with athletes. It’s simple, really. And core to what sport should mean.
You’ll also find out how a missed target and a lost gold medal landed Emmons a wonderful Czech family. You’ll chuckle at family stories of hunting with grandpa. You’ll learn how the friendship of a teammate helped him land his Olympic gold medal. And he may even tell you where he keeps his medals hidden!
What are the basics of shooting?
When you get back to the very basics, it’s the very simple things like just be good on the trigger, see the recoil, pay attention to your breathing - and it's a little bit different for each athlete what that key might be! But when I know the athletes well enough and I know what they're doing and what they've been working on, then I can get them back to that key and it's like ‘go back to this key and just do this one thing.’ Well, that's all you need to worry about and then just basically let them go and do their job.
Were the Olympics a goal of yours?
I wouldn't say winning the Olympics was the ultimate goal for me. That was kind of a piece of the puzzle. I had a bigger goal, which was to actually be to try to be a legend in the sport, to be someone who set a good example for others and make a mark on the sport to take it a step further. Winning a medal or multiple medals at the Olympics was just part of the process.
How would you characterize biathlon?
Biathlon is difficult because you're combining so many aspects. It's such a technical sport from a ski standpoint when you look at everything that goes into the physical training and just being able to be fast. The shooting part of it is also so technical because you have the rifle itself, the accuracy of the rifle, the ammo testing, the positions. And then, on top of that, you add the mental game. There are so many things that you have to be good at to be a great biathlete.