In Rio, shooter Kim Rhode made Olympic history this year. The 37-year-old Southern California native became the first woman to medal in six consecutive Summer Games—ever. Her feat is matched only by Armin Zoggeler, an Italian luger, who also went six for six in the Winter Games.
The bronze medal Rhode brings home this year doesn’t represent her best shooting performance, but perhaps her most significant one, as we learn from this story from latimes.com.
In the 2012 Games in London, Rhode set an Olympic skeet record hitting 99 of 100 targets, and won the third gold medal of her career. When she got home, she learned she had been pregnant during the London games. Initially Rhode and her husband, Mike Harryman, were thrilled, but then the medical complications began.
After various doctors and therapists, Rhode was ultimately bedridden for months before giving birth to her son, Carter, in the spring of 2013, the story says.
“After that, we started working, trying to get back in shape,” said her coach and father Richard.
But another bump in the road slowed her down. A few weeks later Rhode was rushed to the hospital to have an emergency gallbladder removal, the story says.
After all that, the story says Rhode considered retiring, but that she couldn’t bring herself to abandon an Olympic career that began when she took her first gold as a teenager at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“I think it’s just standing up there on the podium. It’s addicting,” she said in the story.
Now, when compared to other physically demanding Olympic sports, shooting can be relatively mild on the human body, unlike gymnastics or swimming. Olympic shooters can compete well into old age with Sweden’s Oscar Swahn collecting six Olympic medals, all while in his 60s and 70s, according to NBC Olympics.
“Gymnastics, maybe you prime out in one or two Olympics,” Morgan Craft said in the story. “I know shooters that are 80-plus years old that still have an absolute blast and still shoot awesome scores.”
So, technically Rhode has a lot going for the longevity of her career, but after all her health problems, and the death of six friends between her and her husband, it’s definitely been a rough three years for Rhode, who wasn’t approved to walk more than a block until a couple months ago, the story says.
“What the Olympics represent is that journey. Overcoming those bumps, the obstacles, the good, the bad,” said Rhode in the NBC story, before adding that her main physical focus at her age is endurance.
“Something I’m working to overcome. Arms, upper body, those are things that definitely take a toll on shooting,” she said, adding that she was fighting fatigue during her bronze-medal shoot-off match against that eliminated Craft in the semifinals. Then, Rhode and China’s Wei Meng were tied at 15 apiece, requiring another shoot off. It would be eight more shots before Rhode would secure the bronze.
Everyone in the family pitched in to help Rhode recover for Rio, the story says. Her husband quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad and Rhode’s mother, Sharon, took over scheduling and travel and making sure the bills got paid as Rhode worked to get back in shooting shape on just 500 rounds a day in practice. She was used to working with twice that, but was still restricted by her doctor until this past February.
Rhode medaled in three World Cup events in 2014 and took the gold at the Pan American Games the following year, even when she suffered a bad reaction to a bug bite in Cyprus, the story says.
“I always say the bronze is tough, the gold is easy,” she said. Rhode’s current tally stands at three gold medals, a silver, and two bronzes won over the span of two decades in skeet and double trap.
“When I started with the Olympics I was 16,” she said. “Now I’m 37. I’m a mom. Who would have thought?”
Rhode, a vocal supporter of 2nd Amendment rights who said that speaking out has cost her sponsorships, is considered a “worthy candidate” to carry the U.S. flag during the closing ceremony.