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The first American to win medals at five consecutive Olympic Summer Games, double trap and skeet shooter Kimberly Rhode has every intention of adding to her remarkable haul.
The USA’s Kimberly Rhode was in typically majestic form in the women’s skeet competition at London 2012, winning gold with a joint world-record score of 99 out of 100. It was the third time the 33-year-old had topped the Olympic podium, sixteen years after winning her first shooting gold at Atlanta 1996.
Reacting to her achievement, she said: “I don't think it has really sunk it yet,” Rhode said after winning her fifth Olympic medal. “It has just been a whirlwind of emotions. I want to run, scream, cry and jump up and down. I just don't know which one to do first.” Asked as to the secret of her prolonged success, she replied: “I don’t think it ever becomes old hat. It’s really about the journey.”
Born in Whithier, California, Rhode discovered her passion for shooting as a young girl, on family safaris to Africa. Specialising in double trap, she won her first world title at the age of only 13 and had barely turned 17 when she became the youngest ever gold-medallist in her sport, dominating the qualification round and the final at Atlanta 1996 with respective scores of 108 and 141 points.
After winning bronze behind Sweden’s Pia Hansen and Italy’s Deborah Gelisio at Sydney 2000, Rhode become the last ever women’s Olympic double trap champion at Athens 2004, beating the Republic of Korea’s Lee Bona to the gold medal by a solitary point. The event was then dropped from the Olympic programme and replaced by skeet. Reflecting on the enforced change, the American commented: “Switching events was one of the more challenging things in my career. I was competing against people who had been doing it 20 or 30 years.”
Undeterred, Rhode made a seamless transition to skeet, in which shooters stand in a fixed position and take aim at clays launched by two traps in a specific order. After tying with Italy’s Chiara Cainero and Germany’s Christine Brinker in the Beijing 2008 final with an Olympic record score of 93, Rhode eventually had to settle for silver after two shoot-offs, with Cainero taking the gold.
Her medal collection complete, Rhode set her sights on winning another Olympic title at London 2012. Her plans to do so received a major setback three years earlier, when her trusty Perazzi shotgun, which had accompanied her at her first four Games, was stolen. Her fans clubbed together to buy her a new gun, and though she and her favourite gun, which she nicknamed “Old Faithful”, were reunited a year later, she chose to compete with the new weapon in London. The decision proved to be inspired.
Rhode plans to defend her title at Rio 2016 and hopes to be competing at the highest level for many years to come. “Shooting is a sport that you can have a long career at,” she says. “The oldest medallist in history was Oscar Swan, and he was 72 when competed in his last Olympics. I think I have a few more Olympics left in me.”