Double trap and skeet shooter Kim Rhode already holds the American record for medals at consecutive Olympic Games (five in a row since 1996). But today she’s made history again, extending her Olympic medal streak to six and becoming the first Olympian ever to medal on five separate continents.
Rhode clinched the bronze medal in the women’s skeet shooting competition, beating her opponent—Chinese shooter Wei Meng—in a dramatic eight-target shootout.
Both competitors hit 15 of 16 targets in the first four rounds of the bronze medal match, sending the women into a sudden-death shootout. Rhode nearly lost before she got started. She missed her second clay, giving Wei an opportunity to send the American home without a medal for the first time since the Clinton administration.
But Wei also missed her second clay, and Rhode was able to capitalize. She hit every one of her remaining six clays, and Wei wasn’t able to handle the pressure, missing her eighth target.
Rhode’s victory adds to her already impressive collection of Olympic hardware. She won a gold medal in 1996, a bronze in 2000, and a gold in 2004 in women’s double trap shooting. After women’s double trap was eliminated from the 2008 Olympic Games, she switched to skeet shooting. She won a silver in that event in 2008 and a gold in 2012.
At the London Games, she also broke the Olympic record with a score of 99 and tied the world record for that event.
Rhode explained her secret to success in an interview with Forbes.com earlier this week:
“You can’t stop and doubt yourself,” she said. “You have to move positively forward with your eyes wide open. Once you set your sights on something you have to be dogged about it.”
“I don’t mean you need to ignore others or to be an egomaniac or a narcissistic jerk. You don’t have to blindly run over others to succeed,” she continued. “Actually, if you do that you’ll only harm yourself. You should instead be honest and helpful to others around you. This builds a positive spirit and lifts everyone, including yourself. Nice guys don’t necessarily finish last. When you’re really steady in your mind you are good to yourself and to others. You’ll then perform better because you are good and generous. Being arrogant or selfish in competition or life will harm yourself and will impede your goals.”
Having a solid philosophy of competition has no doubt been critical to her success in this sport. Skeet shooting takes a huge amount of focus and concentration, and athletes have to be in complete control of their thoughts and emotions.
In the semi-final and final rounds, competitors shoot a total of sixteen shots from four different positions. Each competitor takes four shots at each position and moves to the next. Clays are released two at a time, and shooters must shoot the clays in the order they are released. Missing even one clay can cost the match, which means only the most mentally tough shooters can complete all four positions without breaking concentration.
Rhode’s strategy at the firing line is consistent with how she thinks about competition in general.
“Look, when I’m standing on the line I’m singing a song in my head. I’m not thinking ‘oh my gosh this is my last bird, or oh my gosh someone is ahead of me. I can’t miss or I’ll be behind.’ Instead, I’m singing some song and it helps me with the pressure. I don’t feel any animosity or negative thoughts from anyone because I haven’t treated them that way.”
***Watch Kim Rhode talk to Dana Loesch about the negative impact of California’s new gun control laws.***