As good as she’s been over the past 20-plus years, six-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode arguably had one of her greatest seasons on record in 2017. The shooting world thought so too, as Rhode was recognized by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) as the Female Shooter of the Year for 2017.
Three of the top 10 Female Shooters in 2017 were from America’s Shooting Team and all from the Women’s Skeet ranks, including reigning World and National Champion Dania Vizzi and Junior World Champion Katie Jacob, who finished tied for 10th in the voting.
Joining the 38-year-old Rhode as top honoree was 42-year-old Japanese pistol competitor Matsuda Tomoyuki. Vincent Hancock was the last USA Shooting Team member to earn Shooter of the Year honors from the ISSF following his 2015 season.
Despite six Olympic medals, three World Championship medals and 33 World Cup medals, this is Rhode’s first Shooter of the Year honor.
“It feels amazing!” Rhode said. “It’s been actually an incredible year for me. I worked so hard leading up to it, and it’s great to see it all come together. This is just an incredible honor and I’m super excited.”
With a year that saw so many stellar performances from USA Shooting Team athletes, it took the near-Herculean task of winning two ISSF World Cup gold medals, one ISSF World Cup silver medal, a fourth-place finish at the ISSF World Championship and finishing the year by winning the ISSF World Cup Final to earn to earn Rhode the distinction of USA Shooting Female Athlete of the Year, and now ISSF Female Shooter of the Year.
“What you saw in 2017 was all the hard work leading up to the Olympics,” Rhode said. “I was trying to get myself into a place where I was healthy and better all the way around and in doing so, it came pretty much right at the Olympics and right after and it just kind of clicked and I went with it. We figured out some stuff with my gun fit, with me, and in doing that, you saw the success we had in 2017. With me, personally, I didn’t go out there to win them all, but I knew I had a good chance at it with the way I had been shooting. Even the way I’m currently shooting has been going very well in practice. I’m really, truly, only trying to compete with myself to better my own scores and at the end of the day, I’m just letting the chips fall where they may and luckily I’ve been walking away with medals.”
After becoming the first Summer Olympian to win six medals in six straight Olympic appearances following a bronze-medal performance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it would have been easy for Rhode to rest on her proverbial Olympic laurel wreath, but that’s never been an option the year following the Games for Rhode.
“What offseason?” Rhode joked. “That’s one of my biggest things, I don’t take a lot of time off. I shoot through the winter. Shooting is always there, I do it as much as I can and I like keeping my chops up for the competitions.”
With so many highlights to choose from, Rhode said that her shoot-off with Olympic champion Diana Bacosi of Italy to win the World Cup Final topped them all.
“The World Cup Final is the crème de la crème of competitors and by invitation only. You have to be at the top of the game to be invited. To be competing with that talent and get into a shoot-off and go 22 straight in doubles, it doesn’t get much better.”
Kicking off 2018, Rhode hopes to continue the success she saw in 2017.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s about making the points and getting the quota for the Olympics,” Rhode said. “When we look at what’s coming up, the Olympics are the ultimate goal. Getting that quota, earning those points and working on myself so I make it to Tokyo 2020.”
The ISSF Shooter of the Year award is assigned by the International Shooting Sport Federation according to the vote of the ISSF Coaches Advisory Committee, the ISSF Athletes Committee and a selected panel of media representatives.
Matsuda and Rhode were honored with the trophy earlier this month during the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, during the first stage of the 2018 ISSF World Cup Series. To cap it off, Rhode went on to win the gold medal in Women’s Skeet at the event, the 11th of her career thus far.