FORT CARSON, Colo. -- It’s no secret that Kim Rhode is a shotgun shooting superstar. She has already made history as the first and only woman to medal at six straight Olympic Games, and she’s not stopping there. Rhode is gunning (pun intended) for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where earning a medal would make her the only athlete – regardless of gender or nation – to earn seven medals at seven consecutive Games.
Now 39, Rhode made her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996, where she won her first gold medal in double trap. Since then, Rhode has won another gold (2004) and a bronze (2000) in that event, as well as gold (2012), silver (2008) and bronze (2016) in skeet after women’s double trap was removed from the Olympic program.
After breaking her own skeet world record earlier this year at a world cup, Rhode remains a clear favorite to medal once more in that event – and could be a triple threat come 2020. She has said she is training trap and hopes to start competing that internationally, as well as trap mixed team, a mixed-gender event that makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The El Monte, California, native spoke to TeamUSA.org about her excitement for Tokyo 2020 and potentially competing in her home state in 2028.
Of your six Olympic experiences, which one has been your favorite?
That is pretty easy. It would be the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta because it was the first Olympics I had ever attended, and it was in my home country. It was amazing having that hometown crowd cheering me on saying, “U-S-A, U-S-A.” I think they always scream a little bit louder when you are in your own country. It was just so memorable for me. So, hands down Atlanta 1996.
Which was your favorite medal moment?
Once again, it would be the first. I say that because you remember your first in everything that you do. For me, it would not be any different. When I look back on 1996, I remember the feeling of excitement, anticipation and being super nervous. I had like 20 people knocking on my door the morning of the event making sure I didn’t oversleep or miss my call. Of course I was 16 or 17 at the time so those are big deals. It was just so memorable. Everything flashes [before your eyes] in the seconds as the flag is raising. The good, the bad, the in-between as I like to say, and I think that is what has every Olympian addicted and coming back again and again.
What are you looking forward to most about competing in Tokyo?
I am obviously excited to look at Tokyo because I am going seven for seven, which is a new record. Also, because it puts me one step closer to the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, which is my hometown; with the hometown crowd once again.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to in Tokyo 2020 is just the atmosphere, the traditions, the culture, and really just my teammates, the memories and camaraderie leading up to and through the Olympics. That’s just something I’ve found after going to six Olympics: each one is unique and so different. I can’t wait to see what Tokyo brings!
Thinking about LA 2028, what are your thoughts on the Games being back in the United States and so close to your hometown?
It’s amazing. I look at all the people I went to school with, and I did not grow up in the greatest neighborhood, so for them to see me compete or see what it is I do would be awesome. To have that crowd, I think I’ll have a hard time getting tickets for my friends and my family because I think everybody will go that can because they would not have the opportunity otherwise. For me, it is huge, especially coming from where I come from.
Do you have any remaining goals? What are they?
I have a lot of interesting things I am working on. I’ve added bunker to my game now so I’m training in two events, and I’m working on the mixed team event in addition to international skeet. You may see me in some future world cups shooting the other events and maybe at the Olympics shooting all three. Who knows, we will see what happens. No pressure, right?
Big goals, other than just spending more time with my son and my family, which I think is number one, I am just going to keep shooting and keep doing what I am doing.
How have you seen the sport evolve throughout your career?
That is a tough one for me. When I look back at my career, this makes 29 years that I have been coming to this facility (at Fort Carson). I am 38. My first time here I was about 12 or 13 years old. There have been a lot of changes. I remember at the Olympic Training Center there was a big field where the building is now, and the cafeteria used to be across from the medical center. As far as my sport, we are seeing a lot more youth. The whole age of shooting has dropped. When I started shooting it was an older crowd, and now it is a much younger crowd. I recognize that because I used to be the youngest, and now I am one of the oldest. I think that is great. It just goes to show that USA Shooting and some of the other organizations have done a lot of pushing to get the youth involved and families involved. We are seeing it play out in our sport with the younger generation leading the way and giving us “old folks” a run for our money.
Many younger athletes in the sport look up to you. What advice do you have for them?
I think the one that everyone says is, “Don’t give up.” I am no different. That goes without saying. I cannot tell you how many times I have had even trainers at the Olympic Training Center and even within USA Shooting tell me that I was washed up and that my career was over – only to go out and prove them wrong again and again. You have to really believe in yourself and stick to what you know. The best advice I could give a young athlete is to face your fears. When you step out on that line, know that you can hit every target. If you have any fear or any doubt that you cannot do it, then you have already lost. You have to be honest with yourself, and be willing to look at those fears you may have and confront them and face them in practice before you get to the match. If you do not, then better luck next time.
What is your favorite part about being part of Team USA?
My favorite part, I think goes without saying, is being able to wear the red, white and blue on my back. That is really what this is all about: representing your country. I do a lot of stuff within the sport, but I think that is the biggest honor for me. A lot of amazing people have gone out and given their lives and sacrificed a lot to have the nation that we do and I just cannot thank them enough. I just feel very honored to be wearing some small portion of a flag and to bring home those medals for the United States because at the end of the day that is the ultimate goal.
This interview was supplemented with additional information from USA Shooting.