Kim Rhode holds her son, Carter, after winning the bronze medal in skeet at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Shooting Centre on Aug. 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Kim Rhode is a shooting star.
She’s not the type that flashes briefly across the sky. No, Rhode has longevity in the sport surpassing all of her competitors.
Rhode became the first female Olympian to win a medal in six straight Olympic Games and is tied with Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler, who accomplished the same feat from 1994 to 2014.
“I do love the pressure,” said Rhode. “I do love the competition, but at the same time, I think it’s just standing up there on that podium. It’s addicting. It has me coming back again and again.”
Her bronze in women’s skeet at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Friday marked the fifth continent on which Rhode has won a medal. She defeated Meng Wei of China 7-6 in a shoot-off in the bronze-medal match after both hit 15 of 16 targets.
“It’s amazing,” Rhode said. “I’m just blown away myself.”
With International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in the stands, both missed a shot – first Rhode, then Wei – which let Rhode back in the door. Wei missed, and Rhode pumped her fist quietly and then hugged her coaches.
“I was actually kind of shocked,” Rhode said, “but I think it made for a great final. We’re all Olympians. At this level, we’re all good and she’s an incredible competitor. I knew she would be a tough competitor. I’m sure she’ll be back.”
And so will Rhode. She isn’t finished. Six is not enough.
“I’m going to go again,” Rhode said. “I’m going to try for a seventh. So this hopefully will not be my last. I said before (the competition) win, lose or draw, I’d be coming back again, so hopefully I’ll see everybody in Tokyo.”
And if Los Angeles wins the right to host the 2024 Games, Rhode, who lives in California, said, “I probably have to stick around again. A hometown crowd, it would be amazing. This is my fifth continent, so it’d be great to go full circle back to LA and the United States.”
Reigning world champion Morgan Craft of Team USA finished fifth in her first Olympic Games, losing in the shoot-off for the bronze-medal match when she missed her last clay out of four. Diana Bacosi of Italy defeated teammate and training partner Chiara Cainero 15-14 for the gold.
Craft, who hopes to become a physician’s assistant, isn’t sure if she’ll try for another Olympic Games, but said if Rhode wants to, “Go for it.”
“It’s absolutely impressive that she’s been doing this for longer than I’ve been alive,” Craft said.
Rhode, 37, started her Olympic journey at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, where she won gold in double trap to become the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting soon after turning 17 years old. She won a bronze in Sydney and then another gold in Athens.
When women’s double trap was dropped from the Olympic shooting program, Rhode switched to skeet, where she won the silver in Beijing and the gold in London four years ago, where she equaled the world record with 99 targets.
But Rio was more of a struggle.
Rhode had health problems before and after giving birth to her son, Carter, now 3. He pulls targets for his mom back home and was in the stands at the Olympic Shooting Centre. She still is working on her endurance and said her eyesight has deteriorated with age.
She got off to a rocky start Friday, at least by her standards, in the preliminaries, scoring 23 out of 25 in the first round. She was a perfect 25 in the second round, then hit 24 in the third to stand in second place going into the semifinal.
Rhode was competing with the thought of a sixth medal in her sights on every shot. “When you’re in that bronze-medal match, knowing that you could walk away with a medal and go for Olympic history – or not. So that definitely was something that was on my mind.”
And what else? “Probably, just don’t miss,” she said. “Really the challenge was in the weather, the lighting, the background. We were having a tough time seeing the target.”
In the semifinal, Cainero shot a perfect 16, followed by Bacosi at 15 to secure the gold-medal match. Rhode, Craft and Wei had to shoot it out to advance to the bronze-medal match.
Craft said the shoot-off was very tense. “Usually I welcome shoot-offs,” she said. “I love the pressure and I love shoot-offs. This one didn’t end the way I wanted it to… but hey, I did my best.”
She and Rhode shook hands, and Rhode said she told the 23-year-old “how proud I was of her.”
Rhode had yet another shoot-off to win the bronze.
“In the beginning of the shoot-off, I think you have a little bit more nerves,” Rhode said, “and then as time goes, you kind of settle in and as you go you get a little more calm and that’s definitely something that did happen for me.
“I was really truly, enjoying the moment, enjoying the crowd when they cheer when you hit and ‘Oooh’ when you miss. It’s an incredible thing. It’s almost like they’re helping me to pull the trigger each and every time out there.”
Rhode’s father, Richard, who is her coach, said of her sixth medal, “Five other ones set it up. It’s exciting. That was one heckuva shoot-off at the end. It was nail-biting and the next one we’ll dominate.”
Rhode said she’s a better shooter now than when she began – wiser, more comfortable and able to enjoy the competition more and more.
“Six for six, who would have thought,” Rhode said, noting that her bronze in Rio is “definitely at the top of the list. I was very emotional out there (on the medal podium).
“I think every emotion hits you at once. You want to run, scream, cry and you just don’t know which one to do first. It doesn’t matter if it’s the gold, the silver or the bronze, it’s the journey, and my journey this time was very, very challenging.”
Rhode had health problems before and after giving birth to her son, Carter, now 3. He pulls targets for his mom back home and was in the stands at the Olympic Shooting Centre.
“It’s amazing to have my son in the stands watching me and cheering me on,” Rhode said. “I started this whole run when I was 16. I was a kid myself. Now I’m a mom. It’s very humbling and I hope that he remembers. I’ve taken tons of pictures trying to capture the moment and hopefully look back and have him realize he can attain any dream he wants and really go for it, and really the only obstacles in life are yourself.”
But as consistent as Rhode has been, times have certainly changed.
“I was laughing,” she said. “In 1996, the big things among Olympians was we got a pager. I was talking to some Olympians now and they said, ‘What’s a pager?’”
In Rio, they all got smartphones and Rhode said some of her roommates were playing Pokemon Go.
She plays, too. “I’m kind of competitive, though,” Rhode said with a laugh. “I’m not going to lie.”