Competing at the highest level has become a way of life for USA shooting star Kim Rhode. The 33-year-old California native headed into London 2012 with her sights set on becoming the first U.S. athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympic Games. And she did.
Rhode, who began shooting competitively at age 10, won her first world title at 13and has since remained one of the sport’s premier competitors.
Five days after turning 17, Rhode got her first taste of Olympic gold by claiming victory in the Double Trap event at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. She would go on to take bronze in the same event in 2000 before reclaiming gold at the Athens Games in 2004.
Rhode’s dominance in the Double Trap came to an abrupt end after the ‘04 Games when it was decided to drop the event from the women’s shooting program at future Olympics. But that didn’t stop Rhode, who made the switch from her signature event to Skeet, which required her to command an entirely different style of competitive shooting.
After becoming accustomed to starting with her gun in a mounted, ready-to-fire position for Double Trap, Rhode had to make the adjustment to starting with the shotgun at her hip for Skeet.
"You're talking about building your arms to lift a nine-and-a-half-pound shotgun five hundred to a thousand times a day in practice,” Rhode recently told outdoor magazine Field & Stream.
“When you're tired or jet-lagged, you may not get it to the exact spot where you need to. You have to swing with the target, so you're not only lifting but driving with a target that's going about 65 miles per hour."
Rhode’s relentless training regimen, which includes seven to eight hours per day, shooting 500 to 1,000 rounds with a 12-gauge shotgun, paid off as she quickly amassed a slew of titles in her new event, culminating with a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“It’s become like walking for me. I don’t think, ‘right-left, right-left, right-left’ as I walk down the street. I just do it,” she says.
Rhode’s hobbies outside of shooting have helped keep her balanced despite a rigorous training schedule. Her father, Richard, not only introduced her to shooting, but also handed down a passion for building and restoring antique cars.
She also collects first-edition children’s books, and is hoping her trip to London will yield an authentic edition from famed English author Beatrix Potter to go with her gold medal and U.S. Olympic record.