Shotgun’s indomitable Kim Rhode
Kim Rhode is shotgun sports’ gift that keeps on giving. Last week Rhode won the Gold for Women’s Skeet at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in New Delhi, India. Rhode nailed 56 out of 60 but that’s hardly remarkable for the 37 year old El Monte, Calif. native. The Silver went to Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit from Thailand with 51 and the Bronze to Chloe Tipple of New Zealand with 42.
Rhode is one of two people in the world, and the only American, to win medals in six consecutive Olympics. The other is Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler, who accomplished the same feat from 1994 to 2014.
Shooting Double Trap, she won the Gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the Bronze at the 2000 games in Sydney and the Gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. When Double Trap was dropped she competed in Skeet and picked up Silver at the 2008 Beijing games and Bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. At the 2012 games in London, she particularly distinguished herself by garnering the Gold and equaling the world record 99 out of 100 clays.
Rhode is already preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and suggested if Los Angeles gets the Olympics in 2024 it would be difficult for her to not compete since it’s in her own backyard; Boston and San Francisco are also under consideration by the Olympic Committee. Planning and preparing that far in advance is hardly a surprise considering shooting is Kim Rhode’s life.
I met Rhode for the first time when I interviewed her at this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas. What struck me was how down to Earth and practical she is. She took up shotgun in earnest when she was 13 years old. Too young to live and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, she trained at a local California gun club. When other kids her age were playing volleyball, having slumber parties and chasing boys, Kim Rhode was breaking clay birds – thousands and thousands of clay birds.
Rhode competed in her first Olympics in 1996 where she celebrated her 17th birthday and became the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting. By then she had built a local support system in California that worked so well for her she opted not to live and train at the Olympic Training Center.
In her spare time Rhode has managed to win the Gold at the 2010 Munich Skeet World Championship and has been equally impressive at the Pan American Games. In 2003 she took home the Gold in Santo Domingo shooting double trap. In 2007 it was the Silver at the Rio de Janeiro Skeet event, in 2011 Gold in Guadalajara for skeet and finally in 2015 one more Gold in Toronto also for skeet,
Every Olympic athlete I’ve interviewed agreed that shooting is a mental game. I asked Rhode if she felt more psychological pressure the times she won the Gold.
“Less actually,” she said. “When you win the Gold you’re in the groove, you’re enjoying it because everything is coming together.” She went on to say the Bronze is the difficult one because there’s no fallback; it’s do or die. Rhode also said no matter what, she just loves competing and enjoys every minute of it.
“For me, it’s the journey. I do love the pressure, 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. However, the great thing about the shooting sports is the people; the camaraderie,” she said. “And there’s nothing better than representing your country.”