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Sharpshooting Rhode lining up medal number six

The first American to win medals at five consecutive Olympic Summer Games, double trap and skeet shooter Kimberly Rhode hopes to add to her remarkable haul at Rio 2016.

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, 16 years after winning her first shooting gold at Atlanta 1996.

Reacting to the fifth Olympic medal of her career, she said: “I don't think it has really sunk it yet. 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.”

Shooting’s youngest Olympic champion

Born in Whittier, California, Rhode discovered her passion for shooting as a young girl. Specialising in double trap, she won her first world title at the age of only 13 and had just 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. “Switching events was one of the more challenging things in my career,” reflects Rhode. “I was competing against people who had been doing it 20 or 30 years.”

Undeterred, Rhode made a seamless transition to her new event, 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.

Rio and beyond

A year after completing her medal collection, Rhode suffered a major setback when her trusty Perazzi shotgun was stolen. Bereft at the loss of a gun she called Old Faithful and which had accompanied her at her first four Games, the American shooter was given a new one by her fans.

The replacement worked well, so well in fact that Rhode decided to use it at London, even though Old Faithful had been found and returned to her in the meantime. The American shooter will be using the new gun once again in Rio and, if she has her way, well into the future.

“Shooting is a sport that you can have a long career at,” she explained. “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.”

The 2015 Pan American Games champion, Rhode earned selection for her sixth Olympic Games by comfortably winning the US Trials in May, something she describes as “a huge honour”.

“The first five Olympics I went to, they only took one woman, so this has been great to improve the sport, where we now have two women going. To see it grow has been fantastic. It’s been an incredible experience.”

When she takes to the stand at the Olympic Shooting Centre, Rhode will become only the second US athlete to appear at six Olympic Games. And should she make the podium in Brazil, she will equal Italian luger Armin Zöggeler’s record of medalling at six consecutive Games, while a fourth gold medal will make her the only female shooter to achieve such a haul since the sport was first included on the programme at Los Angeles 1984.

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