Like Fine China : El Monte Teenager Kim Rhode Won’t Be Shooting Paper Plates to Prove Her Worth Anymore
Forget the paper-plate tests. The next time Kim Rhode has her qualifications as a marksman questioned, all she has to do is flash the heavy medal.
Rhode--it’s pronounced Road-ee--won an Olympic gold medal in double trapshooting Tuesday, exactly one week after she didn’t have time to celebrate her 17th birthday.
Hers has been a hectic schedule to be sure. Birthday last Tuesday, opening ceremonies at the Olympics on Friday, followed three days later by her gold-medal effort at the range before a near-sellout crowd.
Rhode’s victory at the Wolf Creek Shooting Complex resulted in the most valuable addition yet to her burgeoning collection of hardware.
Just last month she won the Lonato World Cup in Italy over basically the same international field she beat here.
Now, about that paper-plate test.
When Rhode went on a South African safari years ago, her group’s guides wanted proof that the little girl--she’s only 5 feet 2 and weighs barely 100 pounds now--could shoot straight.
To test her, they grabbed a paper plate and started to pace off a distance, only to be called back by Rhode’s father.
Richard Rhode grabbed the plate, took out a pen, colored a spot into the middle of the plate, then handed it back.
Then he sat back and proudly watched his daughter blast away.
No more dot. Just a big hole. They let her hunt.
Richard Rhode was at least as proud after watching his daughter lose a lead, then rally by hitting 19 clay birds in her last 20 shots.
When it was over, he sidestepped security guards and hoisted her high in the air.
“This is amazing, just incredible,” he kept muttering.
Her hometown would probably present her with keys to the city if it hadn’t already bestowed upon her the “El Monte Tile”--the most significant award a civilian can receive from the community.
So she’s 17, popular, recently became a car owner, and now carries the title of Olympic champion.
What for an encore?
Well, for starters, an ominous challenge lies ahead. Rhode must still navigate through her senior year at Arroyo High.
Maybe now she won’t have to miss a football game or a dance in order to shoot. Then again, sometimes the shooting option is too enticing to pass up.
In the last year, Rhode has visited Argentina, Korea, Germany, Greece and Italy for competitions. Great, she says, for those special little anecdotes teachers like to see as part of geography and history assignments.
“She misses a few things, but there are trade-offs,” her father said. “When you can walk out the sliding door of your room and there’s the Mediterranean, well, that’s pretty good. She’s seen a lot of the world already.”
Rhode is the youngest member in the history of the U.S. national shooting team. Her teammate in trap doubles was Terry DeWitt, 33, who belongs to the U.S. Army’s marksmanship unit stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga.
Rhode, an only child, picked up the sport from her father, who comes from a line of Montana ranchers. Her mother, Sharon, also shoots.
“For us it’s like a bowling league,” Richard said. “Instead of going to an alley, we go every Saturday and Sunday and shoot clay targets.”
Kim started shooting when she was 6 and was competing when she was 10. Within a year of her first tournament, she was invited to attend the U.S. training center in Colorado Springs.
Last year, she was fifth in the World Shotgun Championships and a bronze medalist in the Seoul World Cup. This year, she won another bronze at the Atlanta World Cup and then a gold in Italy.
Trap doubles is new to the Olympics and is the only shotgun event for women competing at the international level.
From five adjacent stations, competitors take turns firing at two four-inch clay targets launched simultaneously from an underground bunker at speeds reaching 50 mph.
Participants in the women’s competition shoot three preliminary rounds of 40 targets each. The top six in the standings shoot a 40-target final.
Rhode carried a three-shot lead into the final, but it quickly evaporated. Susanne Kiermayer of Germany tied her after only 10 shots and held a one-shot lead with 10 targets to go.
Kiermayer made seven. Rhode didn’t miss.
Just like a paper plate.
Once she got going, Rhode said, she wasn’t nervous.
Certainly she is used to high-intensity situations.
Rhode’s only expeditions weren’t in Africa. Two years ago she went hunting in Redding, Calif., and bagged a 400-pound black bear.
As for being nervous, the public address announcer at the venue Tuesday probably didn’t do any of the shooters any good when, just before the competition was about to begin, she twice told all in attendance that the event was being televised “live, to a world-wide audience.”
Been there, done that too.
Last month, just before she was to appear on “The Tonight Show,” another guest--”the old guy on the Monkeys,” Rhode said--informed her that “35 million people will be watching you.”
No problem. “I’ve gotten used to people doing things like that,” she said.
It will be interesting to see if Rhode will get more offers for guest appearances.
She seems to have the stuff of which teen idols are made--sharp wit, quick smile and charming presence. But she realizes that because her sport involves guns, she might not be as popular as, say, the swimmer next door.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Rhode said. “I guess I’ll probably just go back to school, like all kids.
“I’m going to be a senior. This is supposed to be the year.”
It’s off to a strong start.
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* ATHLETE: Kim Rhode.
* DISCIPLINE: Trapshooting.
* HOMETOWN: El Monte.
* COMPETITIVE HISTORY: First Olympics (gold-medal winner). Member of U.S. team this year and in ’95. USA Shooting National Championships (first) in ‘95; Olympic Festival (first) in ‘95; World Shotgun Championships (fifth) in ‘95; Seoul World Cup (third) in ‘95; Atlanta World Cup (third) in ‘96; Lonato World Cup (first) in ’96.
* PERSONAL: Enjoys skiing and hunting. At 10 she brought several trophies home from a South African safari. At 15 she bagged a 400-pound black bear. Doesn’t run or lift weights. “Trains” by line dancing. Owns a pet Iguana named Iggy and wears a jade necklace for luck. Appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on July 18, two days after her 17th birthday and the day before opening ceremonies at the Olympics.
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