Athletes, it seems, are alchemists-able to transform bronze into gold and silver into lead. Proof? The men's double trap final: Australia's defending champion, Russell Mark, was as inconsolable with his silver as Kuwait's Fehaid Al Deehani was delirious with his bronze- the first medal his country had ever won.
Deehani's Sept. 20 triumph triggered a surge of supporters onto the range. They leaped barriers and ran past officials, indifferent to the sudden-death shoot-off about to take place between Mark and Great Britain's Richard Faulds, who had tied with 187 points. The field was cleared and the shoot-off went ahead. The result provided a marked contrast to the Kuwaiti exuberance.
Mark had cruised into the final stages with a three-shot lead built on a new Olympic qualifying record: 143 hits from 150 targets. Then, with just eight to go, he crumbled, and on the 23rd trap missed both flying discs, forcing the shoot-off. This time, Mark was just as jittery, firing wide on the second trap. His friend Faulds shot true.
"I guess you've got to focus on the fact I've won a silver medal and not lost a gold," a distressed Mark, 35, said after the contest. At one stage, he had selflessly hushed the crowd when it cheered Faulds' misses:
"It was probably very hard for me to get focused after that." Faulds said he hadn't even been aware of the cheering. Crowd noise, like much else about the Olympics, is relative.