American Kim Rhode becomes first woman to individually medal in 6 straight Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO — Kim Rhode stood at the base of the Olympic podium, unsure of what to do with her hands. She tugged at the bottom of her shirt, adjusted the sleeve, dropped her arms to the sides.
Scanning the crowd, she locked onto a mop-haired boy sitting on a man’s shoulders, waving wildly at her. A huge smile flashed across Rhode’s face as she waved back.
The pain, the heartbreak, the emotional toll, all that Rhode had been through the four years since London was worth it for this moment.
Italian shooter Diana Bacosi had gold. Rhode had something more precious: Her son, Carter, there watching as she made Olympic history.
Rhode captured bronze in women’s skeet at the Rio de Janeiro Games on Friday, becoming the first woman and second athlete overall to earn an individual medal in six straight Olympics.
"Just very emotional, to have my son up there watching me and hearing him yell mommy, it’s truly amazing," Rhode said, eyes welling as she spoke.
Bacosi earned gold by hitting 15 of 16 targets in the gold-medal match to defeat Italian teammate Chiara Cainero.
But Rhode was the center of attention as she wrapped up a record that started with her double trap gold medal as a precocious 17-year-old kid at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Rhode joins Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler as the only athletes to earn medals in six straight Olympics. Her six medals are most all-time for a female shooter, and she is one of five athletes to earn a medal in six different Olympics.
"Kimberly is great; she is the best women’s shooter," Cainero said. "It was an honor to be here when she made history."
After Atlanta, Rhode racked up medals as she went along in successive Olympics: Bronze in Sydney, gold in Athens, silver in Beijing, gold again in London.
Pain and anguish followed Rhode once the London Games ended.
She competed there without knowing she was with child and had a difficult pregnancy, practically bedridden the final four months. The complications continued after Carter was born 2013, exacerbated by emergency gall bladder surgery six weeks later.
Rhode had an arduous recovery, unable to lift anything over 5 pounds — her gun and son each weighed more — or do much of anything without pain for months.
The problems kept coming.
Rhode had six friends who died after London. Her husband, Mike Harryman, was hospitalized twice with diverticulitis, a condition that affects the colon. Her father broke his leg just before she left for the world championships.
Rhode fought through the physical and emotional pain, gradually building up her stamina; first with a few shots a day, eventually close to the 1,000 rounds she went through before the health issues.
Rhode arrived in Rio with the shooting world — and beyond — eyeing her quest for history.
She made it through qualifying easily. Once in the semifinals, Rhode needed a shootout with Wei Meng of China and American teammate Morgan Craft to reach the bronze-medal match. She made it through, keeping her quest for history alive.
There was still some drama left.
Rhode and Wei both hit 15 targets in the bronze-medal round and Rhode’s hopes seemed to be dashed when she missed a target on the first round of the shoot-off. Wei missed right behind her.
Rhode kept her focus and kept hitting targets. When Wei missed another on her fourth round, Rhode pumped her fist, raised her arms in the air and looked toward her family in the crowd.
"Every emotion hits you at once," said Rhode, who is already planning to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games. "You want to run, scream, cry and you just don’t know which one to do first. It doesn’t matter if it’s the gold, silver or the bronze. It’s the journey and my journey this time was very, very challenging and as you can tell, very emotional. I’m still emotional."