Being consistently great at an Olympic level is difficult at best. That is unless you are Kim Rhode whose greatness in the shooting sports began almost 23 years ago in Atlanta and shows absolutely no sign of fatigue. Friday in Changwon, South Korea she added to her legendary status in the sport by winning a fourth consecutive International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup event.
Rhode is no stranger to superlative as the only U.S. Olympian ever to earn medals in six consecutive Olympic Games. She’s now embracing victory in ways the sport has never seen. ISSF World Cup events began in 1986, and until today, no female had ever won four consecutive World Cup events. Additionally, no shotgun athlete, male or female, has ever won four consecutive World Cup events. It goes without saying now, but Rhode is in a class of her own. Her 21st World Cup victory in shotgun is 10 more than any other athlete.
Rhode, who will turn 40 in July, has won all three 2019 World Cups, as well as the September 2018 stop in Tucson, Arizona. For this mother, whose son Carter, is the biggest prize in her life, it’s the best Mother’s Day gift she could have given herself.
“It’s like a flashback to the Rio podium,” Rhode said from Korea. “I’m still in shock and can’t believe I’ve been able to win four straight World Cup golds. With so much talent out there on the line, I still can’t believe I am lucky enough to wear the Red, White and Blue, let alone win gold. Right now, I’m focused on making the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, so all the rest is just icing on the cake!”
Rhode has now won 12 international medals, including 10 golds, since winning the bronze medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. That bronze was her record-tying sixth consecutive medal at the Games since making her debut in 1996.
In Changwon, Rhode missed only six targets out of 185 between qualifying and Friday’s final. She hit 57 out of 60, including her final 31 shots, in the final to beat Italy’s Diana Bacosi, who hit 54 of 60. Fellow Italian Chiara Cainero won bronze as Italy claimed the two available quota spots for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The U.S. already secured its two quota spots in women’s skeet.
Rhode (El Monte, California) became the first American athlete, man or woman, to medal at five straight Olympic Games in an individual sport in 2012. Four years later she became the first woman ever to medal at six consecutive Games and joined Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler as the only athletes to achieve that.
Seventeen-year-old Austen Smith (Keller, Texas) finished ninth, two targets out of potential Finals spot, with a score of 117/125. Two-time reigning National Champion Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida) finished 54th with a score of 101.
As good as Friday is at USA Shooting, Saturday could be just as good. It’s the luxury you get when you have the top female and male skeet shooters in the world, and two of the greatest the sport has ever seen. Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) dropped one target out of 50 to begin his own quest to win five-straight World Cup events he has actually competed in dating back to 2018. Sixteen other athletes, including the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s (USAMU) Christian Elliott (Greenville, Indiana) shot 49, with four others shooting a perfect 50. So, as Hancock admitted on his social media accounts, he’s “still got some work to do.”
Elliott’s USAMU teammate, Phillip Jungman (Caldwell, Texas), shot a 47 to remain in contention, but will likely need a perfect 75/75 Saturday if he hopes to advance to the Finals.