INNISFIL, Ontario -- Kim Rhode has won five Olympic medals and competed at six Pan American Games, yet the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games has proven to be a Games full of firsts for Rhode.
Rhode, whose time in Toronto started with being selected by her teammates as the Team USA flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony, took to the skeet field on Saturday to defend her gold medal from the 2011 Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico.
|Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.|
In the qualification rounds, Rhode hit 74 of 75 targets to tie the world record and set a new Pan Ams record.
“I did?” Rhode asked, when told the news of her accomplishments. “That’s all news to me! What an honor. It’s been a great Pan Am Games. I got to carry the flag, tie the record, and it has just been incredible.”
But Rhode wasn’t done impressing the crowds.
In the gold-medal match against Argentina’s Melisa Gil, Rhode hit 15 of 16 targets to Gil’s 12 to retain her title of Pan American champion and earn her fifth Pan American Games medal. Francisca Crovetto of Chile finished with the bronze.
“It’s definitely been a lot of first for me at this Pan American Games,” Rhode said. “It’s definitely up there with one of the top.”
With a myriad of accomplishments under her belt, including being the only U.S. athlete to earn an individual medal at five consecutive Olympic Games, Rhode says she’s not done yet and has her sights set on a sixth medal next year in Rio.
“You can always get better, but it was pretty smooth sailing and I’m pretty pleased with my performance here,” Rhode said.
Her strategy, she said, is simply “don’t miss,” but she has worked to make shooting come as naturally as breathing.
“I really don’t think too much about it,” Rhode said. “When most people walk down the street, they don’t think ‘right, left, right, left.’ They just do it. I’ve been fortunate enough to make my shooting like walking. When I’m out there, I just truly enjoy the moment.”
With both a world cup and world championship coming up in the next two months, Rhode says Team USA’s work isn’t finished.
“We still have some bumps in the road to overcome,” Rhode said. “It’s definitely a good way to be moving into those matches.”