Almost a medalist in Beijing. Almost perfect in London.
For Columbus State University assistant rifle coach Jamie Lynn Gray, four years of anguish was washed away Saturday.
Gray gave the United States its third shooting gold medal of the London Games, winning the women's 50-meter three-position rifle.
Earlier, Gray's clinching final shot netted 10.8 points — you can't do better than 10.9 — and gave her an Olympic-record total of 691.9, 4.4 points better than silver-medalist Ivana Maksimovic of Serbia.
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"That last shot is probably one of the hardest shots to take," Gray said. "And I've worked on taking that last shot for four years."
Oh, it paid off.
Gray saw bronze medals narrowly slip away twice in Beijing, settling for fourth in air rifle and fifth in the three-position event — missing the medal stand by a combined 1.8 points in those events, and seeing what looked like at least a sure bronze in three-position get away on a last-shot mistake.
Not this time.
Gray slipped up a bit on her next-to-last shot in the final, managing only an 8.9, her worst shot of 10 in the medal round. Still, she only needed an 8.3 on the finale to wrap up gold — and did far more than that, wrapping it up with her best score of the round, and giving the Americans their first three-gold Olympics since 1984.
"I've worked for four years taking that shot, over and over and over again in my head," said Gray, who competed under her maiden name of Beyerle in Beijing. "I shot a bad shot, of course, the second-to-last shot. And I just threw it out. I did a great job of going, 'OK, it's over, it doesn't matter and move on to the next one.' And that's exactly what I did. And it was a great shot — couldn't ask for anything better."
Columbus State athletic director Jay Sparks said her success is not a surprise.
“We are very proud for Jamie and her Olympic success,” Sparks said. “ She shoots like she coaches, with a supreme focus and discipline that is hard to match. We are also proud for her husband Hank, who is a shooter himself and knows what a tremendous accomplishment this is.
“It is our pleasure to be associated with such a fine individual who represents herself, her sport and her country extremely well.”
CSU rifle coach Mike Greene said she had worked hard to win the gold.
"Jamie winning gold shows that hard work and dedication pays off,” Greene said. “ We are exciting to have Jamie share her experiences with us when she gets back and to start working with our shooters here at CSU. We are so proud of her!“
Gray also just missed a medal a week ago when she finished fifth in the 10-meter air rifle competition.
There was no close miss Saturday at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
She was one of the last to shoot in every round of the final, taking a few extra seconds for some deep breaths, visualization, going through the mental checklist she's had since 2008. Every time she's practiced since Beijing, what went wrong there has been in mind, so much so that she's refused to leave the range until she shoots a 10.
"You never want your last shot to be a bad one," she said.
So it was fitting. On Saturday, on the Olympic stage again, her last shot was her best. All the work, all the visualizing, all the pain of having to answer what went wrong in Beijing four years ago, it all paid off.
"It was almost a little bit of relief, honestly," Gray said. "I've dreaded that last shot for four years. And it's amazing to have it come through and be a good shot — and I took a good shot, that was the big thing. Sometimes you come down on target and you just take a shot and it's like, 'Uh, I don't know where that is.' But I knew it was a good one. It looked good and it felt good, so yeah, it was awesome."
— Kevin Price and the Associated Press contributed to this report