Olympic Shooters Ignored, ‘Stigmatized’ Despite Winning More Golds than Wrestlers, Divers, Gymnasts

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Olympic shooter Kim Rhode. (Photo: LA Times)

Olympic shooter Kim Rhode. (Photo: LA Times)

The Summer Olympics are in Rio this year, and the United States is looking to repeat its 2012 total gold medal victory over China and Russia. American shooters earned three of those medals—tied with gymnasts for the third most golds behind swimming and track and field. But as the Wall Street Journal reported last week, you’re not likely to hear about Kim Rhode or Vincent Hancock on any Summer Olympic previews.

According to the Journal, last year’s gold medal count has held true for the entire history of the Olympic Games: American shooters have won more golds for the United States than every other type of Summer Olympic athlete except swimmers and track and field participants. But the public perception of guns as dangerous and frightening has kept the media and most corporate sponsors from recognizing the achievements of Team USA shooters.

Kim Rhode, for instance, has won an Olympic medal at each of the five preceding Summer Games. Rhode participates in trap and skeet competitions and since the 1996 Games in Atlanta the 36-year-old from southern California has earned three gold medals, one silver, and one bronze.  If she wins another this year, she’ll become the first American ever to win a medal at six different Olympics. Michael Phelps? He’s earned medals at only three.

But most Americans have never heard of Rhode. As she told the Journal, “Our sport has an unfortunate stigma attached to it.” Before the London Games, which started days after a shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, she received death threats and had to be assigned additional security.

Robert Mitchell, executive director of USA Shooting, was once asked by a woman seated behind him on a flight, “So you teach people how to hold up 7-Elevens?” He took the time to explain the skill and dedication of American shooters, and, he recalls, she left the conversation with a newfound appreciation for the sport.

The media sought out comment from Rhode after the San Bernardino shooting, to which she responded with “sorrow for the victims and support for gun rights” but also a question: Why should that crime have placed her in the spotlight? “You don’t hear them asking Nascar drivers to comment on crimes involving cars.”

Among all the successful Olympic shooters, only one has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Lones Wigger won a gold medal in 1964 for the three-position small-bore rifle competition at 50 meters and a gold in 1972 for the three-position free rifle competition at 300 meters.

He deserves the acclaim he received, but he was less than enthusiastic in his interview with the Journal. He called his Hall of Fame nod “a token thing.”

“We have several other people who ought to be in consideration. But guns are political,” he concluded.

Political is right. Some competitors—like Nathalia Granados who lives with her husband in New York—isn’t permitted to own the pistol she needs for the 25-meter event. Others have had difficulty transporting their firearms to competitions.

Shooting sports are an integral part of life for thousands of Americans. But as the Journal notes, “Many [Americans] are blind to the discipline and skill required, as well as the joy that elite marksmanship can stir.” Our shooters succeed at every international competition they enter, and they deserve more credit and attention than they’ve been given thus far.

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • John M Mensik, Sr. August 10, 2016, 5:30 pm

    I wonder if Bob Costas has any influence on the interviews NBC performs? I seem to recall that when the Colorado theater shootings occurred he went on an anti-gun, anti-2nd amendment rant. Perhaps NBC doesn’t want to shine any positive light on gun use. Just wondering.

  • Gayla August 9, 2016, 4:20 pm

    I couldn’t name a wrestler with a gold medal, a rower with a medal, etc. it has nothing to do with gun violence. It’s just that it’s not a well known, popular sport. Who won the gold for the doubles kayak in London? Most people wouldn’t know because they aren’t interested. The media plays the sports the majority of the people are interested in. No secret conspiracy because of guns.

    • Lark Mulvahill August 10, 2016, 6:02 am

      Did any of those other atheltes receive death threats? I guess not.

    • Billy W. August 10, 2016, 11:20 am

      Kurt Angle has a medal. Point trumped

    • Bret marshall August 12, 2016, 2:15 am

      Jordan Burroughs of the university of Nebraska and Jake Varner from Iowa state both won gold medals in 2012. The wrestlers haven’t competed yet in 2016.

    • Sam August 12, 2016, 9:52 pm

      If an American kayaker had won a medal in six consecutive Olympics, I think we’d know his or her name. I wouldn’t in the least be surprised to discover Bob Costas pulling strings behind the scenes.

  • Trooper August 8, 2016, 11:54 am

    Somebody goes on a stabbing spree, nobody ever asks the fencing coach how he feels about that. Nobody ever accuses him of teaching people to mug others with knives, either.

    • Jan Burda August 8, 2016, 1:15 pm

      Good analogy. Media producers are really, not very smart.

  • BillC August 7, 2016, 5:41 pm

    The author writes, “But the public perception of guns as dangerous and frightening has kept the media and most corporate sponsors from recognizing the achievements of Team USA shooters.”

    It isn’t the public perception. The media is brainwashing the public into thinking this way. The lame stream media has an agenda and reporting the truth is not part of the plan. This is Indoctrination, Propaganda and Brainwashing all rolled up into one.

    • Dave August 18, 2016, 7:49 am

      Point being that media keeps talking about Killary and how great she is. Tired of the mainstream taking full advantage of their power to try to corrupt our minds with what they want us to hear. My family and i look forward to the Olympics and love the shooting competitions. When your 19 and you win gold in the Olympics and you tell everyone that I learned to shoot from hunting with my dad. As a parent that hunts with my kids it humbles me. This is why I watch the Olympics. Fight for our 2nd ammendment rights or our kids, kids will not be able to show there daughters how to shoot…

  • Will August 7, 2016, 5:12 pm

    Congratulations to our shooting team for doing so well as they always have! Its pretty sad that the media do not give them the credit they deserve and it is because 99% of the media is owned by anti gun lobbyists like George Soros as a great example. Because of their major left wing reporting I have completely stopped watching or reading any news from all of the dishonest papers and news stations. What ever happened to honest reporting and letting the public decide instead of pushing their agenda. The corruption runs deep

    • Gary Hewitt August 8, 2016, 9:32 pm

      You better check your facts about who owns the TV Stations, the person that has the greatest ownership of TV and Radio Stations as well as Newspapers is Rupert Murdock, then comes Comcast, that owns NBC, Disney and many others.

  • griffendad April 24, 2016, 3:49 pm

    No mention of the coverage of winter olympics. The biathalon.

  • BJG April 23, 2016, 5:51 pm

    Where does she get her ammo? .50 cents a shot? You can Win.AA’s at Walmart for around $7.00 bucks a box. Shooting sports has always been at the bottom of the list, at least since the 1970’s Everyone with a brain knows its because of the left wing main media. They only report bad things about firearms, nothing good. They will continue to do this as long as our Colleges are filled with left wing liberal “So called Professors.” and journalist students get brain washed by these liberal gun hating Professors. Liberalism is the root of all evil in America.

    • Scott April 27, 2016, 8:31 am

      You don’t fuel a tuned machine with cheap fuel. She does not shoot Walmart special ammo. Just as you would not buy Walmart golf gear to compete with Tiger Woods.

    • Robert August 6, 2016, 9:30 pm

      She reloads. Fast, easy, cheap. When it’s time for a competition, use factory loads (rules might require that, I don’t know, I am a pistol shooter).

    • Phil August 9, 2016, 5:31 pm

      When I was starting to shoot small bore competition, the Lapua Master M ammo was $12.00 a box of 50. It is no way even close to Walmart ammo. I am sure they are using match grade ammo for competition, as the consistency of bulk ammo is not good enough to be competitive.

  • Scott April 22, 2016, 1:36 pm

    To be fair, Kim made it a bit political herself by attending & speaking at the RNC convention and making a big deal about it…

    • Outlaw April 26, 2016, 12:05 am

      And why should she not attend the convention of the political party which does not want to remove her chosen sport from existence? She might have attended and spoke at the Democratic convention but do you think they would have even invited her? No she would have been ridiculed and threatened with bodily harm or death at the Demo convention. If you deny this then you are out of touch with the reality of the situation and the true intentions of the Democratic party and their candidates, and don’t waste my, or other people’s time trying to explain how we are wrong about that FACT.

      • Liberal August 8, 2016, 11:13 am

        I am the father of a shooter who has competed, winning awards, in military competitions (including interservice nationals) and NRA nationals. I am also a Democrat, having been elected to local office, as an officer of county and Congressional district committees, and as a delegate to county, district, and state conventions. Our Olympic representatives in any sport would be treated like a celebrity, and invited to support the Democratic party platform and candidates.

        • Kcreeley August 9, 2016, 5:12 pm

          I’ll accept everything you said as the truth without investigation…except the last sentence…the last sentence should be embarrassing to you, unless you meant it as a joke.

        • Lark Mulvahill August 10, 2016, 6:05 am

          My ass.

  • REDBEAR April 22, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Maybe it is time to raise some friendly hell to the media twirps that sell this country to the dogs daily

  • Jules April 22, 2016, 12:19 pm

    I coach an AIM trap team in Mississippi and cannot get the papers to cover one event. Two of my young shooters will go to college this fall and shoot on the college team and no coverage due to the horrible liberal press. I am a retired school administrator and know the fear of not being able to protect the liberals kids in school due to the hate laws and media. My kids deserve just as much protection and recognition as the Obama girls.

    • DaveGinOly April 23, 2016, 12:07 am

      “Hate laws.” I love it and will use it!

    • Dave August 18, 2016, 8:08 am

      Dang right, this always liberal crap makes me want to vomit. My son and daughter Hunt with me and we enjoy the hunt, and everything that goes with it. We love to shoot, hang out, she’d Hunt, every aspect. They both know how to defend themselves because of hunting. With the liberals on their rampage trying to get Killary elected makes us all very nervous which is why we all need to vote. We want my kids, kids to be able to enjoy their guns and go hunting. Keep up the good work!

  • W.H. Taylor April 22, 2016, 11:51 am

    I have all respect for shooters in the Olympics and being a shooter myself, I get the devotion and skill required but to compare the athleticism of a shooter with an Olympic wrestler is ridiculous. It’s apples and oranges.

    • hoovman April 26, 2016, 2:59 pm

      Yeah, because wrestling boys in their underwear takes hand eye coordination… Got it.

      • ReddogIII August 6, 2016, 4:27 pm

        As a father of a HS wresler and an NRA shotgun coach that’s funny

    • Robert August 6, 2016, 9:34 pm

      It’s not about exertion, it’s about time and dedication and natural ability taken to the limit of what is possible. That, is the Olympics.

    • GHallam August 9, 2016, 11:59 am

      Total dedication is required in all of them. All should receive recognition for the accomplishments. Also, they should not be taxed for the honor they bring to our country in these events.

    • Dave August 18, 2016, 8:19 am

      I wrestled in high school also played football. I’m a hunter that loves to shoot trap and skeet. I quit wrestling after one year because the practice was unreal. They put you in a room with the heat on and you practiced in that. Have all respect for wrestlers. Football practice was not nearly as hard stayed with that. To compare wrestling to shooting to me you use more of your brain to shoot, where you use brawn for wrestling. If we bring home a gold, or a medal in any of those sports I will be equally happy for its our country I’m cheering for..god bless USA

  • Oliver Klozzoff April 22, 2016, 8:43 am

    I appreciate the author bringing this issue to light, but, with all due respect, I submit that he has it backwards when he postulates that “the public perception of guns as dangerous and frightening has kept the media and most corporate sponsors from recognizing the achievements of Team USA shooters.”

    It is not the public, which owns hundreds of millions of firearms, and has shown a healthy appetite for cable TV gun programs, it is the anti-gun, Left-wing media producers who subscribe to Eric Holder’s directive that Americans be regularly brainwashed about guns. It is bizarrely paradoxical when media producers air all kinds of shoot-em-up crime dramas, yet refuse to show educational and sport shooting, while at the same time over-dramatizing mass shootings and ignoring the huge numbers of cases where guns have saved many lives. It is clear that those in power, who are surrounded by armed guards, wish only to disarm the People so that they can do their worst without fear of an uprising. We need the Second Amendment now more than ever.

    • Steve Warren April 22, 2016, 9:16 am

      You’re joking, right? Have you ever participated or even attended any form of shooting competition?

      • Oliver Klozzoff April 23, 2016, 8:43 pm

        Seems you completely missed my point.

      • Bill in Lexington,NC April 26, 2016, 4:46 pm

        Steve, re-read what he wrote. Slowly and in English this time.

      • Mark T August 7, 2016, 12:36 am

        What part of his comment are you actually referring to?

    • David Teel August 7, 2016, 5:32 pm

      It is the media that has furthered the anti-gun morons agenda. They have their media noses so far up the anti-gunners asses they could us them for head lights.

  • charles April 22, 2016, 7:51 am

    Most people don’t associate shooting with athletics & feel that the Olympics is dedicated to sports, not activities such as shooting.

    • Oliver Klozzoff April 23, 2016, 8:54 pm

      Well archery is also an Olympic sport, but Eric Holder has not said people need to be brainwashed daily about bows and arrows. Shooting is more of a sport than, say, curling, which is like shuffleboard on ice, or rhythmic gymnastics.

      • hoovman April 26, 2016, 3:02 pm

        Maybe Holder should speak out against Olympic (or NBA) basketball, which is staying after school in your underwear.

  • DRAINO April 19, 2016, 10:43 am

    Would LOVE to see more coverage of the Olympic shooting sports!! And even others as well. 3-gun competitions are awesome!! MORE SHOOTING SPORTS COVERAGE, MEDIA TWERPS!!!!

    • Media Twerp April 22, 2016, 4:22 am

      Name calling will get you nowhere.

      • Chief April 22, 2016, 8:15 am

        And being nice to the leftist, socialist, media will ?Nope ,they hate us ,

      • mike April 22, 2016, 8:44 am

        Apparently expecting unbiased coverage (you doing your job) won’t get us anywhere either

  • David Donley April 18, 2016, 11:36 pm

    Thank you for bringing these names forward. I can appreciate the level of training it takes just to win a single medal on the world stage…but medalling in five games? That’s incredible.
    Guess I’ll just offer pity to those who are so jaded they can’t appreciate the wonder of another’s lifetime pursuit of excellence.
    Meanwhile: USA! USA! USA!

  • Miles Huggins April 17, 2016, 2:24 pm

    Yea this is not right what comparison could there in a competitive shooter and a mass shooter thats like comparing a miner to a suicide bomber.

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