Rhode gunning for five medals

Dec. 24, 2010, 5:45 p.m. (ET)

Kim Rhode is as humble an Olympian as one can find.

When asked about what makes her so successful, she is sure to mention her family, friends and coaches’ support as the keys to her success.

But when you’re a four-time shooting Olympian and medalist with another Olympic Games edging closer, at some point even the humblest have to acknowledge greatness.

“I don’t know if you ever really realize it,” Rhode said. “Even now, I don’t look at myself and say, ‘wow, I’m in the best in the world.’ I don’t really think of myself that way.”

Rhode doesn’t know much else besides being an Olympian.

She was the youngest American Olympian at age 17 in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games where she won a gold medal in the double trap event. And because shooting is one of the Olympic sports you can participate in the longest – the oldest medal winner is 72 – Rhode’s path seemed destined for long-term success.

Her performance at the next two Games certainly gave credibility to that claim – winning bronze in 2000 in Sydney and gold in 2004 in Greece. But in 2004, she learned the IOC was removing her event from The Olympics.

Double trap would no longer be a medal competition, now it is skeet shooting, so Rhode had four years to master a new technique.

“It was very difficult to say the least,” she said. “It was not one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my life. In fact, I’d say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

Rhode compared it to swimming and diving.

“It would be the equivalent of a diver switching to the backstroke; the only common ground is the water.”

In doubles trap, Rhode started with the gun mounted and then the target went out away from her versus in skeet, the gun starts at the hip, the birds come out the second “pull” is called or three seconds at random then cross in front of the shooter.

“It’s a totally completely different game, and really took me back to ground zero as far as having to start all over.”

But start over she did, and in fantastic fashion, making the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and winning a silver medal after a sudden death shoot out.

“I would say that, that was my biggest accomplishment, that transitioning, because you have to realize I’m competing against women that have been doing it for 20 years and have all this experience,” she said. “To be able to go head-to-head with them in such a short period of time was truly an honor for me and was a challenge that made me a stronger competitor today, but at the same time, I hope nobody else had to do it because it was tough.”

Tough as it may have been, it proved to be a true confidence builder that is propelling her toward competing in the London 2012 Games.

After a successful 2010 year where she was named USA Shooting’s female athlete of the year, she is hundreds of qualifying points ahead of her biggest competition and should be mathematically qualified by the next shooting World Cup.

It’s not enough for Rhode just to make it to her fifth Olympic Games though, she wants to join the elite and small group of Olympians to have medaled in five different Olympics.

That means jugging practice, training, a marriage and education with being an Olympian.

“Being an Olympian and doing what I do is a huge portion of my life,” she said. “A lot of what I do revolves around it from the interviews to the training to the travel.

“But I do the dishes and laundry and dusting and cleaning, just like everyone else, except I might have a bit more on the plate with the travel and the phone calls to return.”

In between going to school for veterinary medicine, restoring old cars and enjoying her newlywed life, Rhode trains almost everyday by shooting 500-1000 rounds at three different shooting ranges.

She said the repetition builds up endurance, and she tries to shoot in all sorts of conditions to make sure she’s adjusted for shooting in different kinds of weather.

She also does focus training for her eyes as well as exercises to strengthen her core.

Rhode is concentrating on London for now, but with her unmatched success and dominance of late, there’s no telling when she’ll stop hanging medals around her neck.

“One thing I’ve always said and I continued saying is that I take it one year at a time, one Olympics at a time,” Rhode said. “I knew that I would be doing this for a long time because I love it. To go to the Olympics and to do this, you have to love it, and you have to have the passion that I do.”