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American Wins First Gold


SYDNEY, Australia — Shooter Nancy Johnson of Phenix City, Ala., won the first gold medal of the Sydney Olympics today in a shootout.

It came down to the last 50 shots in the women's 10-meter air rifle competition and the last of 10 shots in the shootout among eight finalists. Johnson and Kang Cho-Hyun of South Korea, who won the silver medal, were tied at 487.8 points when they took their last shots. Johnson's 9.9 of a possible 10.9 left a chance for Kang but the Korean shot a 9.7.

"I feel really good but it's a little overwhelming," Johnson said. "It hasn't sunk in yet."

Johnson's husband, Ken, will compete in the men's air rifle competition Monday. They are the first married couple to make the same U.S. Olympic team and could become the first couple to win gold medals in the same Games.

"I always thought a gold medal was within my grasp," Nancy Johnson said, conceding that she had not realized how close the final shootout was. "I normally do look up to see the scoreboard, but the first time I looked, the lights were so bright in my eyes, I decided not to do that."

Johnson began the shootout in fourth place but gained on the leading Kang all the way.

Getting to the finals had been in doubt in the preliminaries when Johnson, who had shot 26 perfect 10s to start--decimals up to 10.9 aren't used until the shootout--suddenly shot five consecutive nines.

She paused, then stepped back from the shooting counter where the row of 55 shooters stood, aiming at the centers of golf-ball-sized targets inside illuminated squares 33 feet away.

Then, in an unusual move, she summoned her husband and her coach. That was a risky move, since the 1 hour 15 minute time limit to squeeze off 40 shots was running down and Johnson is what she calls a "deliberate shooter."

"I didn't know what I was doing wrong, but they told me . . . I was swaying," she said.

She returned to the counter and, with time running out, ran off a string of 10s in her last nine shots, six of them in the final eight minutes.

"I knew this would be the first competition," Johnson said. "And I began thinking about a year ago that I had a shot at winning. I thought, 'How cool it would be to win the first gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.' "


France's Franck Dumoulin won the men's 10-meter air rifle competition with an Olympic-record 688.9 points. Wang Yifu of China took the silver with 686.9 points and the bronze went to Igor Basinsky of Belarus, who had 682.7.

"It's hard to describe," the 27-year-old Dumoulin said. "I feel like I've been in a boxing match and I've won with a knockout punch."

Wang captured Olympic gold at Barcelona in 1992 with the previous record of 684.8 and took silver at Atlanta in 1996. He established a personal best, but it wasn't enough to beat Dumoulin.

"I realized I had finally won in the final round when I looked at the scoreboard," Dumoulin said. "Only when I reached the final, I realized that I had a chance."

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