(L-R) Phillip Dutton, Emil Milev and Kim Rhode will all be competing in their sixth Olympic Games in Rio.
Winning a spot on Team USA and earning the title “Olympian” is a feat that only a select few in the world can say they have accomplished. It’s the ultimate bucket list item to check off. Do it twice, it’s even more impressive.
Now stop and think what it must feel like to pack your suitcase for a sixth Olympic Games.
Three members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team can tell you what it feels like, because they are living that process right now. Five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode, two-time Olympic champion Phillip Dutton and Olympic silver medalist Emil Milev will compete at their sixth Games when they step onto the field of play in Brazil, an honor few have every achieved.
Phillip Dutton, Equestrian
After winning two Olympic gold medals riding for Australia, Rio will mark Dutton’s third Games as a Team USA athlete. Born and raised in Nyngan, Australia, he grew up with horses while working on his family’s sheep and wheat farm. He moved to the U.S. in 1991 to prepare for the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, where he contributed to Australia’s gold-medal performance in team eventing, then successfully defended the gold in Sydney four years later. He received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 and was inducted into Sport Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
After placing 13th individually and sixth in team at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Dutton, now 52, rose to No. 1 in the 2005 FEI World Event Rankings. He became an American citizen in 2006 and began riding for the U.S. He took second in the prestigious Rolex Kentucky Three Day in his debut as an American rider, adding team gold and individual silver from the Rio 2007 Pan American Games later that year. The following year he won the Rolex Kentucky event. A noted trainer, Dutton last spring was selected to work with Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve as he transitions to a second career as an eventing horse.
A founding member of the Professional Riders Organization (PRO), Dutton served as its president in 2012 and 2013. He also lends his expertise to U.S. Equestrian Federation governance as a member of its Eventing High Performance Committee and chairman of its Eventing Active Athletes Committee. He has been named the Leading Rider of the Year 13 times, including a streak from 2000-10.
Should Dutton and his teammates earn a medal in Rio, it will be the first for the Team USA in eventing since the Athens 2004 Games, where the U.S. won bronze.
Emil Milev, Shooting
Milev began shooting air pistol at the age of 16. He discovered the rapid fire discipline a year later and has remained with it ever since. A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, he competed for his native country at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, but it wasn’t until 1994 that he began to have a significant impact on this sport when he won a world championship silver medal.
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The second half of the 1990s saw Milev, now 48, enjoy his greatest success, winning a silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games to go with a medal of the same hue at the 1995 world cup final. He took gold at the world cup event in Havana in 1996 and 1997, then barely missed the podium at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, placing fourth. He harvested a total of six world cup medals in the quadrennium after Sydney,
including two golds in 2002 and another in 2005 after placing eighth at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
He emigrated to the U.S. in 2009 and won a spot on the U.S. national team that year. Settling in Tampa, Florida, where he is an elementary school physical education teacher, Milev continued to make his presence felt on the international level, including a silver medal at the 2010 Championship of the Americas and gold at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games and 2013 world cup finals.
If Milev medals in Rio, it would be the first for the U.S. in the event since William McMillan won gold at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games. Milev also would become the first men’s rapid fire pistol shooter to claim his second Olympic medal 20 years after his first. Germany’s Ralf Schumann won silvers 20 years apart (in Seoul 1988 shooting for East Germany and Beijing 2008 for Germany), but he bridged that gap with three gold medals (1992, 1996 and 2004).
Kim Rhode, Shooting
Rhode heads to her sixth Olympic Games on five different continents with a tall task before her: earning a medal in her sixth consecutive Olympic Games. By doing so, she would be the first woman to achieve the feat and would join Italian luge legend Armin Zoeggeler as the only two Olympians to medal in six straight Games.
The only U.S. athlete to win five individual medals in five Olympic Games, Rhode began as a 16-year-old at the Atlanta 1996 Games, where she won a gold in double trap. Two more medals in that event followed – a bronze in Sydney and another gold in Athens. When double trap was dropped from the Olympic program, Rhode made the difficult transition to skeet without missing a beat. A silver in Beijing gave her an Olympic medal of every hue, and she added gold in London in near-perfect fashion, setting the Olympic record by hitting 99 out of 100 targets. Because of changes to the scoring system, it is a record that may never be broken.
In addition to her Olympic medal haul, Rhode has won three world championship medals and five at the Pan American Games, including four golds.
What Rhode didn’t know was that her effort in London wasn’t a solo one – she later learned she was pregnant at the time. The pregnancy came with complications that had her on bed rest for the final four months. Son Carter was born two to three weeks past the initial due date, but that did not end the complications: Six weeks after delivery, Rhode underwent emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder. The road back has been long, slow and winding, but she is ready to challenge for her sixth Olympic medal. If anything, the struggle has given her new perspective.
“It has made me stronger,” she told TeamUSA.org in March. “It has given me a whole new appreciation for your health. It’s one of those things where with a lot of work and a lot of support from a lot of different people, I am coming back.”