Everyone who has ever followed the Olympics knows who Michael Phelps is. The almost legendary swimmer known for winning a record 28 medals spanning over a series of 5 Olympics. However, there’s someone who has flown under the Olympic radar, mainly because of her chosen sports: skeet and double trap shooting. This someone would be six-time Olympian Kim Rhode. From 1996-2016, Kim Rhode has participated in six Olympics, medaling in all of them (3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronzes).
Kim, the most decorated athlete in women’s shooting was born on July 16, 1979 in California to Richard and Sharon Rhode. At the age of ten, she would shoot competitively for the first time. Three years later, she won her first world championship in double-trap at the ripe age of 13, opening the door to 35 total international medals, including her six Olympic medals.
At the age of 17, Kim entered the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the inaugural Women’s Double Trap competition. In the qualifying rounds, she scored a combined total of 108 points, an Olympic record. Then, in the finals, Kim scored another 33 points for a total of 141 points (another Olympic record) and the gold medal.
Four years later, Kim came back again, this time in Sydney, Australia for the 2000 Olympics. In this Olympics, Pia Hansen of Sweden broke both of Kim’s Olympic records and took the gold. Kim ended up with a total of 139 and the bronze medal. However, this would be the only double-trap event not won by Rhode. In the same Olympics, Kim finished seventh in the inaugural Women’s Skeet Shooting event.
For the 2004 Olympics, the Olympic committee selected Athens, Greece, home of the original Olympic competition. This time, Rhode would be able to sneak past Lee Bo-Na of Korea for the gold medal, scoring 110 in the qualifiers and 36 in the final, for a total of 146. After Kim won in 2004, Women’s Double Trap shooting was removed from the Olympics. Again, Kim would compete in the Women’s Skeet Shooting, but she would place fifth.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, because of the removal of double trap shooting, Kim only competed in Women’s Skeet Shooting , an event she had not excelled to the same extent as in double trap. However, the now 29 year old would rise to the challenge. In the qualifying round, she scored a 70, good enough for third. Moving onto the finals, there was a three way tie for first, leading to a shoot off between Rhode, Chiara Cainero of Italy and Christine Brinker of Germany. Chiara would win the gold medal shoot off, but when Rhode and Brinker had a shoot off for second place, Rhode took the silver.
The 2012 Olympics in London would be one of her most trying, yet successful Olympics yet. While in London, Kim Rhode competed again in the skeet shoot. This time, she tied the world record and set the Olympic record for most successful shots, nailing 99 out of 100 and snatching the gold medal. Now here’s the kicker: she all this while pregnant with her son.
Following the 2012 Olympics, Rhode suffered a long series of trials, reducing her stamina and strength immensely. Held back by a variety of injuries and illnesses, Rhode was not allowed to pick up more than five pounds, including her newborn son (who weighed eight pounds) and her shotgun. Additionally, she could not walk around the block until a few months before the 2016 Olympics, but she persevered and worked to back to the world competition.
Now’s the fun part: last year’s Rio Olympics, her sixth of her career. In the qualifying round of the 2016 Women’s Skeet Shoot, Kim took second, knocking 72 of 75 targets out of the air. Then, in the finals, she snuck past China’s Wei Ming in a (literal) 7-6 shootout, taking the bronze medal. While only a bronze, it will be forever noted in the record books. Kim’s bronze medal not only made her the first Olympian to medal on five different continents (Asia, Europe, North America, Australia, and South America), but she also became the first Summer Olympian to medal in six straight Olympics and the first woman to ever medal in six back-to-back Olympics.
While some may argue that swimming and running take more toll on the athlete than shooting, there is tremendous upper body strength required to not only hold the shotgun for long periods of time, but to also keep it steady. All in all, enough talk about Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, Kim Rhode is the longevity queen of the Olympics. She’s even talked about going for a seventh and eighth Olympics, provided she stays healthy enough. Rhode’s perseverance in this sport is highly inspiring, and is an encouragement to stay strong in the face of anything life throws at us.