Kim Rhode Is Shooting to Add Another Gold Medal
By Reya Kempley
Originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Safari Magazine.
Kim Rhode placed one of her Olympic medals around the neck of a grinning fan, then posed for a photo with an easy-going smile. It’s a familiar scene at trade shows and shooting events around the country. She attracts fans every-where she goes, and for good reason — the six-time Olympian has won a medal in each of the consecutive Games she has attended, the first woman and summer Olympian to do so.
The California resident is a living legend in the shooting sports. Her friendly demeanor makes her an accessible inspiration for young and old alike.
At 6, she began going on dove hunts with her family in Arizona, and later went on African safaris at age 12. She enjoyed deer hunting in Utah and northern California. Her family had passed down a love of hunting, the outdoors and shooting sports to her.
“I was just a little kid trailing behind my dad through the woods,” said the California native. “He was trying to be very quiet as we followed some deer tracks. Suddenly, I saw a deer standing on the hillside. I jumped up, pointed at the deer, and yelled, ‘There it is dad!’ Of course, the deer took off and my dad’s shot was now at a deer on a full run.”
While that early adventure did not go as planned, her father gave her another try, and she learned to love hunting. And that was a good thing because, pretty soon, they realized she had a gift.
At 10, she started competitive shooting, and her parents enrolled her in a junior NRA program. While she initially tried her hand at 3-position rifle, it was skeet and its moving targets that she loved.
“It was just to have fun and shoot the local shoots,” she said. “Then it grew to state, and the world, and the Olympics. At a certain point I had that goal of going to the Olympics, but it didn’t come until later in my career.”
“Later” is a relative term for her. Only five days after turning 17, Rhode had already become the best woman in the world at double trap, winning Olympic gold at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. She was the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting history.
“I remember the enthusiasm of the crowd [and my teammates] cheering ‘USA, USA,’ the nervousness…I remember even oversleeping the night before the competition,” she recalls. “It was everything I had hoped and dreamed for.”
Four years later in Sydney, Rhode again found herself on the podium, this time with a bronze medal. She won her second gold medal at the next Olympics in 2004 in Athens.
It was after Athens that her event was eliminated from the Olympic program. Many athletes would choose retirement facing such a roadblock, but instead, Rhode decided to switch gears from double trap to skeet.
Amazingly, she kept up her medal-winning pace, earning a silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, her third gold in London in 2012 (tying the world record), and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games.
While Rhode maintains a grueling training regimen on her home clay range, hunting remains a cherished part of her life.
“I enjoy the outdoors, watching the dogs work, and the friendship that comes from hunting,” she said. “Not to mention the food.”
Hunting also makes her a better competitor, she said. “Wild birds are unpredictable, flying in all direc-tions. It teaches you to swing and move with the target,” said Rhode.
In the time between hunting, training and traveling the world, Rhode is passionate about promoting the shooting sports for women and youth with the organization Kids & Clays. She’s active politically in her home state of California and with the NRA, and is vice president of the International Shooting Sports Federation, which governs international Olympic shooting sports.
Events for her sponsors Beretta and Winchester are always on her to-do list.
Now Rhode is making time to prepare for yet another Olympic Trials. With as much ambition as that little girl spotting the deer for her father, Rhode looks ahead at her Path to Paris leading to the 2024 Olympic Games and beyond. She has no plans of stopping. It all goes back to her first gold medal as a 17-year-old.
“Wearing the red, white and blue on your back and being up on that podium watching that flag — that’s really what it’s about,” she said. “I still get choked up hearing the national anthem because of that moment.”
Reya Kempley is USA Shooting’s communications coordinator.