Kim Rhode won the Women’s Skeet gold medal at this year’s Pan American (Pan Am) Games in Toronto. Team USA’s sole women’s skeet competitor was able to beat Argentinian Melisa Gil 15-12, dropping only one target in the gold-medal match. In the semifinal match, she set a Pan Am Games record with a perfect 16/16 score. Her qualification score of 74/75 is also a Pan Am Games record, and tied the current world record. This is Rhode’s fourth medal overall and second gold at the Pan Am Games.
About her Pan Am Games performance, Rhode told USA Shooting:
“Like any athlete would tell you, we’re always looking to get better and improve, but it was pretty smooth sailing,” she said. “I was pretty pleased with my performance…I’ve been fortunate enough to make my shooting like walking so when I go out there, I just really enjoy the moment. I like being out there under the pressure!”
Rhode is a familiar presence on the winner’s podium. At age 17 she won her first gold medal in Double Trap at her Olympic debut in Atlanta. She went on to become the first American to medal in an individual Olympic sport in five straight Games. She is also the only woman to win three individual gold medals in the sport of shooting.
Kim Rhode is not just a great shotgun competitor, but an excellent representative for all the shooting sports. After her gold medal performance at the 2012 London Olympics, she was hoping to talk to reporters about becoming the first American to medal in an individual Olympic sport in five consecutive Games, instead reporters asked her about gun control. Rhode understands the topic can divide people, but is a strong defender of gun ownership.
“For me it is hard to hear about the sport of shooting coming under attack because I have seen myself how much of a positive thing it can be,” Rhode said. “It is a sport with equality—women often compete with men. It is not about violence, it is about focus and concentration, precision and practice. I will always believe it offers strong life lessons and that is what I want people to know.”
After the London Olympics, Rhode decided to send a personal message about firearms and competitive shooting on the political stage. At the Republican National Convention in 2012, Rhode introduced fellow Olympians and gave a speech in support of Mitt Romney. She told Rogers that she would like to continue her role as an ambassador for the shooting sports:
“I would love to be involved again, to play my part and get the word out there … coming from a sports perspective, I want to show that the shooting community is very active in promoting responsibility in relation to guns. We sometimes get a bad rap and I want to help show people what we are really about.”
Rhode was selected as Team USA’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Pan Am Games. She was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA members. Rhode is only the second competitive shooter to serve as flag bearer for Team USA at the Pan American Games. In 1975, legendary Olympic rifle shooter Lones Wigger carried the Team USA flag.
The career of a competitive shooter can span decades. In the same USA Today article Rhode says that “we [shooters] have a pretty long shelf life.” Count on seeing Kim Rhode continue to rack up the shotgun medals in international competition.