TIME: Flawless Diamond [Following an Australian Olympian]


For Michael Diamond, less practice makes perfect. Australia's laser-eyed trap shooter becomes bored and loses focus if he overtrains, so usually restricts his stints at the range to two a month — far fewer than most of his Olympic opponents, who tend to train like, well, Olympians. They blast away at flying clay discs for days on end. Diamond goes to the beach.

But Diamond boosted his training before the Games, practicing twice a week, dutifully working through 100 rounds each time. Diamond didn't work nearly so hard before taking gold in Atlanta, and deliberately didn't shoot at all for three months before the World Cup in March. "I upped the tempo because I knew these were going to be hard targets," said Diamond on Sept. 17, after claiming his second Olympic gold medal.

It was a far-sighted call. The 28-year-old Diamond finished with an overall score of 147 targets hit out of 150 launched. It was two fewer than his winning total in 1996, but Cecil Park in 2000 was immeasurably more difficult. "It's a bitch of a range," complained Canadian shooter George Leary. The main problem: 11-cm orange discs become nearly invisible when fired at 100 km/h past a background of brown grass. Diamond said he'd never experienced tougher conditions. Yet he missed only three of Saturday's 75 targets, and none of Sunday's. Fellow Australian Russell Mark never recovered from a troubled Saturday and failed to make the medal round, leaving Italy's Giovanni Pellielo and Briton Ian Peel to battle Diamond.

Peel is a minor Diamond nemesis, having exposed hitherto unknown anxiety in the Australian during the World Cup, also held at the Olympic venue. Peel won after Diamond missed four of the final 11 targets, nervous at performing for the first time before a big hometown audience. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack," Diamond said at the time. "I was green to the pressure."

Green no longer, he played the Olympic crowd expertly, at one point holding a finger to his lips to silence screams of delight so other competitors could concentrate. To Diamond's fans, the car-radio salesman is the most charismatic wielder of firearms since Dirty Harry. Says the racing driver Peter Brock: "You have to appreciate someone who can operate under these kinds of pressures."

Diamond shot better and faster as he closed in on his goal of becoming the second man to win back-to-back Olympic trap titles, and later revealed that his strategy was mapped out by his father, Con, who died in May: "I've heard his words all through the Olympics. He didn't teach me for 20 years for me to just walk out there and fail." Diamond's determined training made perfectly sure of it.