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The silver bullet

Historic athlete picked up her fourth career medal, plans on winning more

Posted: September 13, 2008 10:57 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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With her trusty Perazzi Winchester 12-gauge shotgun lodged into her right shoulder, Kimberly Rhode was a few shots from winning an Olympic gold medal in women's skeet shooting.

Under monsoon rains in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, in a sudden-death shoot-off, Rhode only missed one clay target, but the Whittier-born 29-year-old raised in El Monte still took home a shiny silver medal.

It was the first time an American woman won a medal in this specific discipline, which has been in the Olympics since 1968. It was and her fourth career medal.

The 5-foot-4 woman trains at Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall.

"I can remember the water coming off of my arm like a river," Rhode said. "But I didn't realize how bad it was until I looked at those photos (in the press), because we were so focused on the targets."

Rhode went into the final tied for third place at 70 out of 75 targets with three other shooters.

After hitting 23 targets in the final, Rhode came out tied for first place at 93 targets with Italy's Chiara Cainero and Christine Brinker of Germany.

In the shoot-off, Rhode and Brinker each missed a target on their first pair, while Cainero hit both her targets, giving her the gold medal.

Battling for the silver in a second shoot-off, Brinker missed one of her targets and Rhode hit both to claim the silver.

"Weather-wise it was definitely the worst I've ever been," Rhode said. "But we all had to compete in the same weather."

Accomplishing the feat in skeet was even more impressive since she was a rookie of sorts.

Rhode had only a year-and-a-half to train in the sport. She spent the past three Olympics winning medals in double-trap.

In the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Rhode became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team to win an Olympic gold medal in any shooting sport. She turned 17 just five days before.

"To be the youngest is amazing," Rhode said. "I didn't realize how much it would touch other people. It's your first Olympiad; you're in your host country. It's exciting."

Rhode also won the gold in Athens in the 2004 Games, and she took home bronze in the 2000 Sydney Games.

After Rhode returned from Beijing, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired Monday.

Rhode was among 175 medalists who were on the show as part of a campaign to land the 2016 Olympics in Chicago, which is one of four finalist hosts.

Rhode plans on qualifying and competing in the 2012 London Games.

"I hope it comes back to America," Rhode said. "It's not about going out on top ... I don't see kids keeping me from going to Olympics. I'd want to be there every step of the way."

According to USA Shooting's Web site, the sport of double-trap involves the shooter standing 16 yards behind the house, or small brick structure that releases the targets.

Two targets are released simultaneously from the openings in the houses. They follow set paths, usually 35 degrees to the left and right of straightaway. The shooter can take one shot at each target.

After the 2004 Olympics, women's double trap was removed by the Olympic Games. The International Shooting Sports Federation claimed that there weren't enough women in the sport.

The timing of it was coincidental. Rhode was at her dominant peak in the sport, before she made the switch to skeet in 2006.

"It was a little bit of politics," Rhode said. "There's a lot of speculation as to why it was pulled. In '96, double trap the men shot 150 targets, the women shot 120.

In women, there was no skeet or trap. In 2000, they said there were not enough women in double trap, so they eliminated it. That wasn't true, there were more than enough. The women shot 75, the men 125."

"I wish we could compete with the men on an even playing field. It's one of the few Olympic sports that men and women can compete."

Rhode began shooting at four-years-old. She later began hunting while she was on African safaris at the age of 12.

"As far as I can remember, I was shooting paper plates and cans," Rhode said. "My mom and dad got me into it. When I first started, the gun was taller than me."

The story of how Rhode met her fiancé, Mike Harryman, involved shooting.

After she returned from an airline trip after a competition in Germany, Rhode was in no real mood to go out on the town. In stepped her friend, Debbie Hoglin, who convinced Rhode to go out on a double date.

"She didn't want to meet this guy by herself," Rhode said. "I didn't want to go, but she made me get ready. I told her, ‘You're crazy.' She told me she'd give me five minutes before she picked me up. We (Rhode and Harryman) said hello, we never got each other's numbers. He has a brother and they happened to be at the same event."

Harryman, an air conditioning and heating repairman in Glendora, and Rhode, are due to wed on March 21, 2009.
Coincidentally, Hoglin is set to marry his brother, Paul Harryman, in February.

Part of Rhode's training also includes hand-eye coordination like pool, video games and a machine with flashing lights that enhances focus.

Rhode, who collects antique cars like a 1965 Shelby Cobra and a 1917 Model T Spyglass Chaser, is studying veterinary medicine at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Her schedule in the near future includes the Double Trap and Skeet World Shotgun Championship Team Selection match finals from the Olympic Training Center shooting venue in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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