Skeet shooter Kim Rhode became the first American athlete to win gold medals in an individual event in five consecutive Olympic Games on Sunday. She set an Olympic record by shooting 99 out of 100 targets, a number that also tied the world record. Rhode, who is 33 years old, also became the first female to win three gold medals in Olympic shooting events, according to the New York Times.
Following her performance, the audience rose in a standing ovation. Rhode couldn't help but smile when she realized she was on her way to the win after her 95th shot. The previous high tally was 93.
"I told myself, 'Don't cry. You won't be able to see the birds. It'll be blurry,'" she told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rhode made her Olympic debut in 1996 when she was 17, which made her the youngest Olympian to medal in skeet shooting. She most recently won the silver medal for skeet in Beijing, and her record of success puts her in the same cagegory as such female Olympians as speed skater Bonnie Blair and retired track runner Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Rhode practices by shooting between 500 and 1,000 rounds every day.When planning for the Games, Rhode knew that England's weather is often rainy and dreary, so she traveled to Oregon and Redlands, Calif., two areas notorious for cloudy weather and rain. She credits her training for her Sunday victory in London.
"I welcomed it because I'm comfortable in it," she said. "I tried to put myself in those conditions, those elements," she said, adding that other shooters think she's crazy.
Along with shooting 99 percent of her targets, Rhode also set the record in the Olympic preliminary round, which saw her hit 74 of 75 targets, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Rhode's father Richard wasn't at all surprised she made Olympic history, and he chalks it up to her even-keeled temperament.
"There's no pressure," he said, according to Yahoo! Sports. "You're competing against yourself. If you lose, your husband's going to love you just as much, your parents are going to love you just as much. So go out there and have a good time."
The most nerve-racking part of Rhode's journey to winning the gold medal wasn't the competition itself, but rather the journey to get there. After having her favorite gun stolen in 2009, she barely made it to the London Games on time after her plane was delayed.
In addition, her husband had trouble finding his passport, and the couple's puppy ate Rhode's re-issued plane ticket. She finally made it to London, the Times reported, after missing the team's training camp in Denmark.