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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Southland Focus / A Look at
Area Athletes Making their Mark at the Summer Games

Facing Deficit, Rhode Finds Aim to Avoid Trap

Shooting: Teen phenom squanders three-shot advantage, then shatters 19 of her final 20 targets to win gold medal.


ATLANTA — Were her sport considered a tad more politically correct, Kim Rhode might soon need an agent to negotiate advertising campaigns and coordinate photo shoots for magazine covers--other than for Guns and Ammo.

The perky El Monte teenager, already the possessor of an infectious smile and bubbly personality, added an Olympic gold medal in double trapshooting to her resume Tuesday before a near-capacity crowd at the Wolf Creek Shooting Complex.

After squandering the three-shot lead she carried into the final round of 40, Rhode rallied and shattered 19 of her final 20 targets. She finished two points ahead of Susanne Kiermayer of Germany and Deserie Huddleston of Australia.

Kiermayer then won the silver medal by defeating Huddleston in a shoot-off.

Rhode's final shots at two clay targets launched simultaneously provided her margin of victory.

Was she nervous?

Heck, no. She's 17.

"I wasn't really paying any attention," she said. "I was just focusing on what I was doing.

"I was just here to have a good time and do the best I could do. . . . I didn't expect all this."

Only after her last two shots did Rhode realize what she had done.

"When the crowd went wild behind me, I pretty much knew," she said.

The crowd, by the way, included Rhode's mother, father and, just in case anyone was curious, her driver's education teacher.

The Arroyo High senior offered several such tidbits in a half-hour news conference, during which she charmed members of the international press.

One foreign reporter, obviously impressed, later asked her how she remained "so normal. You know, compared to the gymnasts."

That was the only question that stumped her.

Then again, normal probably isn't the most accurate of descriptions.

Normal teenagers haven't gone on South African safaris.

Or bagged 400-pound black bears on a domestic hunting expedition.

Or painted their braces--since removed--red, white, blue and gold.

For the record:

--She can't spell the species of trophies she bagged in South Africa. "Are you kidding? No way," she said, laughing.

--Shooting the bear and winning the gold medal don't compare. "The gold medal outweighs the bear, most definitely," she said. Figuratively speaking of course.

--The braces have been replaced by a retainer that has red, white and blue stripes.

Rhode, who carries the reputation of a free spirit, appeared uncharacteristically tight at the start of the final round, missing half of her first 10 targets and falling back into a tie with Kiermayer.

With 10 sets of targets to go, there was a four-way tie for first.

With five sets of targets remaining, Kiermayer led by a point.

But Rhode made her final 10 shots and the German's string of 16 consecutive hits ended when she missed both targets on one set.

"I kind of mellowed out in the middle and progressed from there," Rhode said.


Medalists / Shooting


Gold: Kim Rhode, United States

Silver: Susanne Kiermayer, Germany

Bronze: Deserie Huddleston, Australia

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