She won her first Olympic gold medal in 1996 in a sport — shotgun shooting — that rarely earns the attention lavished on gymnastics or track and field. Plus, she was competing amid an ocean of anticipation for the debut of beach volleyball, softball and women’s soccer, and athletes such as Carl Lewis and Lisa Leslie.
Her event was something called the double trap.
But when Kim Rhode stood atop the podium in Atlanta, the world took notice, not only because of her medal, but because of her youth. Rhode started her senior year at Arroyo High in El Monte shortly after the Games were over.
She was the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting.
Twenty four years later, the world is still paying attention. Rhode, now 40, took home a bronze at the 2000 Games; gold in 2004, silver in 2008, a third gold in 2012 and another bronze in Rio in 2016 — the first athlete in the summer Games to win in an individual medal in six consecutive competitions.
Rhode has experienced a few challenges along the way to building one of the most impressive resumes in Olympic history. She was bedridden for months before her son, Carter, was born in 2013, and shortly thereafter had to have her gallbladder removed. Her strength returned slowly.
“I was rusty and had to take baby steps,” she told Times staff writer David Wharton in 2016. But she did — and those baby steps became strides, which took her back to the podium at the 2016 Games, a spot, she says, that’s “addicting.”
No one needs to ask about her 2020 plans. Rhode secured her spot on the U.S. team for the Summer Games by winning silver at the 2018 world championships.
But she’s also thinking long term. In an interview for the Olympics website, Rhode said she hopes to compete in several more Olympic competitions, especially the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, “my hometown.”