U.S. Shooter Wins Bronze After Rival Fails Drug Test
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In sports we often hear about the ugliness of doping. And at the Olympics, athletes caught cheating are humiliated and their countries embarrassed. Sometimes, though, good can emerge from a doping case. From Beijing, NPR's Tom Goldman has this report.
Mr. STEVE ROUSH (U.S. Olympic Committee): Could I have Jason Turner step up?
(Soundbite of cheering)
TOM GOLDMAN: This past weekend, members of the American Olympic shooting team threw a party in downtown Beijing. Part of the festivities included a special presentation for pistol shooter Jason Turner from upstate New York. U.S. Olympic Committee official Steve Roush emceed.
Mr. ROUSH: This is a testimonial of why you try your hardest, keep striving, don't give up.
GOLDMAN: Turner stood onstage in his blue-and-white team jacket. He's a quiet 33-year-old bartender by night and dead-eye shooter by day. He was quite happy to let Roush do all the talking and tell Turner's story. Not that it needed telling at the party. Everyone already knew what happened.
It started the day after the Olympic opening ceremony. Turner was entered in the 10 meter air pistol competition, which fittingly began at high noon.
Mr. JASON TURNER (United States Olympic Shooter): I started off really well, really good. As the shooters like to say, I was in a zone there for 20 shots or so.
GOLDMAN: But then Turner started thinking about glory.
Mr. TURNER: I might actually win this thing.
GOLDMAN: Which of course dropped him out of the zone. He scrambled back though and finished fourth in the event. That's the heartbreak position in the Olympics, just missing third and a medal and record book immortality. Turner says he avoided the natural fourth place thoughts of what could I have done better.
Mr. TURNER: Because you start thinking about that and you beat yourself up, you know, you don't get any sleep and you start thinking what could've been. You know, I was just very happy with how I had done.
GOLDMAN: He finished right behind North Korean Kim Jong Su, who won the bronze medal. Turner didn't know him. The North Koreans don't travel that much internationally, Turner said. But a few days later the world knew Kim. He was kicked out of the games for doping, taking a beta blocker that helps lower the heart rate and prevent trembling. That could come in quite handy in a precision sport like shooting. So Kim was expelled and his third place was vacated, which brings us back to Saturday night's party.
Mr. ROUSH: And ladies and gentlemen, your bronze medalist in the 10 meter air piston, Jason Turner.
(Soundbite of applause)
GOLDMAN: Is there a part of it, though, that's not as satisfying? Like I was watching a medal ceremony here today which was really, you know, very grandiose. The music, you get on the podium...
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. TURNER: To be on the podium at the Olympics, I mean, it's got to be a spectacular feeling. But I - things worked out in the end. You know, I got the medal. The ovation and the applause that I got was something that is also very memorable.
GOLDMAN: Jason Turner says he's still in shock about the medal that fell in his lap, but without hesitation he says he deserves it.
Mr. TURNER: Yes. Yes, I do. I competed fair and square. I put in a lot of hard work for that day's competition, and yeah, I definitely deserve it.
GOLDMAN: And so Jason Turner's story is about trying your hardest and not giving up, especially in this current era of doping in sport.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Beijing.