Matthew Emmons of the United States won the gold medal in the men's 50 metres rifle prone positions target event yesterday after holding off a ferocious challenge from Germany's Christian Lusch.

Russia's Lioubov Galkina shoots during the women's 50-metre rifle three-positions final. Picture: AP
Emmons, a 23-year-old accountant from New Jersey, scored 703.3 points while Lusch took the silver medal with 702.2. The German had stalked the American, moving to within just 0.3 point of Emmons with two rounds left.

However, Emmons, a deer hunter, stopped Lusch with two bullseye scores of 10.6 on his final two shots.

Emmons, who studied at the University of Alaska and was taught how to shoot by an FBI firearms instructor at the age of 14, held a one-shot lead from the qualifying round, earlier yesterday over Lusch, who is also 23.

Cheered on by a large crowd of German backers at the Markopoulo shooting range outside Athens, Lusch had gradually closed in on Emmons, shooting nine consecutive bullseyes.

With the pressure building, Emmons recovered after a weak 9.9 in round six and nailed his final two shots with a pair of 10.6s. Lusch, meanwhile, slipped to a 9.9 on his final attempt, finishing second.

The two young outsiders, nevertheless, both leapt up off the mat and celebrated their medals over an experience-rich field that included all three medal winners from the 2000 Olympics.

Sergei Martynov of Belarus won the bronze medal, repeating his performance at Sydney. He moved up from fifth at the start of the final 10-shot round to overtake Slovakia's Jozef Gonci who finished fourth at the end.

Defending Olympic champion Jonas Edman of Sweden failed to qualify for the final, finishing a distant 32nd in the 46-man field with 590.

The 2000 silver medallist, Torben Grimmel of Denmark, also fell short of the finals with 594 and ninth place.

Meanwhile, Russia's Lioubov Galkina won the gold medal in the women's 50 metre rifle three-positions target event yesterday after setting an Olympic record for the final round.

Bouncing back from her bitter final-shot defeat last Saturday in the 10-metre air rifle competition, Galkina added the gold to the silver medal she had won earlier with an outstanding final round.

Galkina fired a final 101.4, which was added to her 587 points in the qualifying round, for a total score of 688.4.

Valentina Turisini of Italy took the silver medal with a score of 685.9 points while Wang Chengyi of China won the bronze medal with a score of 685.4.

Olga Dovgun of Kazakhstan had led the field after the qualifying with a score of 588, one point ahead of Galkina. But Dovgun slipped with the worst round of any of the eight finalists, getting just 96.9 points, to end up fourth.

Galkina, 31, had just missed winning the first gold medal of the Olympics last Saturday when she faltered on her final shot to end up second to China's Du Li.

But yesterday, she finished strongly, hitting the bullseye on her five final shots to finish comfortably ahead of Turisini.

"I came to Athens confident that I was going to win medals in both events," Galkina said.