LONDON - She set a world record and made Olympic history on Sunday. But few people know her name.
Kim Rhode could walk through just about any shopping mall in America and not be recognized.
That's because skeet shooting never makes headlines in our sports pages. So Rhode is basically unknown and unappreciated.
But just because you don't know her doesn't take away from the fact that she has now won a medal in five straight Olympics, something no other American has ever done in individual competition.
And guess what? She ain't finished yet.
The 33-year-old Californian is planning to make it six in a row in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and maybe even more after that.
"Shooting is a sport that you can have a long career at. The oldest medalist in history was Oscar Swan, and he was 72 when competed in his last Olympics. I think I have a few more Olympics left in me," Rhode said.
Swan, a Swedish shooter, won a gold medal at age 64 in the 1912 Olympics. He came back in 1920 and became the oldest athlete to ever compete in the Games.
Old Oscar was probably lucky he didn't have to shoot against Kim Rhode.
On Sunday, she set a world record by hitting 99 of 100 targets to win a third gold medal. She also won gold in 1996 when, at 17, she was the youngest U.S. Olympian.
She won gold at Athens in 2004, squeezed in between a bronze at Sydney in 2000 and a silver in Beijing in 2008.
"I don't think it has really sunk it yet," Rhode said after winning her fifth medal." It has just been a whirlwind of emotions. I want to run, scream, cry and jump up and down. I just don't know which one to do first.
"It's a bummer to miss a bird, but sometimes you just miss. It was very tough shooting conditions. We had a lot of wind and a lot of lighting changes, which affected us seeing the targets clearly. Plus, we had rain there at the end. But I think it made me focus that much harder and pay attention on every target and every detail."
The fifth medal is the most special, not just because it accomplished something no other American has ever done. The last four years have been a most trying journey for this American sharpshooter.
First, a stalker stole the gun she had used in the previous four Olympics.
It was almost like losing a best friend, but thanks to an anonymous donor, Rhode soon got a new gun.
When the first gun -- a MX12 Perazzi Italian shotgun worth $20,000 to $30,000 -- was found, she retired it and used the gift MX2000S Perazzi -- worth about the same.
Later, a 4.5-centimeter tumor was discovered in her breast. She feared cancer, but the tumor was benign.
"The journey is unique to each Olympics, and this was probably my most challenging," Rhode said. "That makes it sweeter when you are on top of that podium with the national anthem playing and you have that gold medal around your neck."
Rhode got here with "practice, practice, practice."
She shoots an average of 500 to 1,000 rounds a day seven days a week. In her career, she has some 3 million targets under her belt.
But despite all that work, she almost missed making the Olympics four years ago.
"My event (international doubles trap) was eliminated in 2004. Switching events (to skeet) was one of the more challenging things in my career.
"I was competing against people who had been doing it 20 or 30 years. It came down to one bird in the final round and the very last shot four years ago."
Rhode has had to make a lot of adjustments to get where she is today. So her immediate reaction to winning that fifth consecutive medal on Sunday was no surprise.
"It has taken me a lifetime to get to this point," she said. "I don't think it can sink in in just an hour."
(Nick Gholson, sports editor of the Wichita Falls Times Record News, is part of the Scripps team covering the London Olympics. He can be reached at gholsonn(at)timesrecordnews.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com)
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