The Californian has now won medals at six Olympics, and she is happy to use her platform to discuss gun control in the United States
On Friday afternoon, American shooter Kim Rhode held her bronze. It was her sixth medal won across six Olympics on four continents, and she could feel the tears stinging her eyes. In front of her fluttered the US flag, confirmation she is now the first woman to win medals in six straight summer Olympics – her first was a gold back in 1996. Behind her fluttered an Olympic flag at half-mast to honor a Brazilian soldier killed in another spate of Rio gun violence. And those two worlds are forever complicating one of the USs most-accomplished athletes.
She is a star shooter and a devoted gun advocate. These facets have become an inseparable part of her identity. Once, her medal celebrations were about her performance on the mat. But in a post-Newtown, post-Aurora America, her Olympics are about the gun she fears is being pulled from her hand
And so on the day she made history she was talking politics in a tent 6,000 miles away from her Southern California home.
Well I think it kind of says it for itself, she said. Im definitely Trump! Hes very much for the Second Amendment.
Soon there came more questions …
Do you support Trump solely because of guns?
Its a list of things yes, its not just one thing but you have to take a candidate in all. But definitely Second Amendment is a big one for me, being thats how I make my livelihood and something that is so passionate and important for me and my family for generations. Heck, I had family that was one of the 25 hand-picked men that was picked to go in and save Custer and Custers battlefield.
But as a female athlete who just made Olympic history wouldnt you want a woman president?
You know I mean definitely having a [female] president would be incredible just not Hillary, she said.
Then Rhode laughed. Somehow the afternoon had gotten so far from the medal that she still wore around her neck. She speaks about guns with such calm and conviction, inviting questions with a hearty welcoming smile, she almost lures outsiders into a friendly debate. She does not complain that her Olympic press conferences have turned into discussions on gun control; she seems to like to use them as a way of advocating against laws she finds intrusive.
She also startled a French reporter when she told him that she has her three-year-old son in a youth programs with the National Rifle Association. Im covering all the bases, she said in terms of introducing him to guns.
Getting to that press conference was not a certainty, however. Her medal was not assured. Unlike some Olympic sports, shooting can be an unpredictable event where factors like sun, wind and temperature can affect competitors. Her field was filled with talented shooters, and there was little room for imperfection. The shooting centre is located in a barren, hilly region on Rios west side. On Friday a steady breeze taunted the shooters who also struggled to spot the discs against the distant hills. As the sun moved in and out of clouds, some of the shooters changed the filters in their glasses hoping to better see the targets.
Rhode told herself to keep aiming for the front of the discs, and she hit enough to find herself in a tie for third with Wei Meng of China. Personal Jesus and Smooth Criminal played softly on the loudspeakers as the two women battled. Rhode said she did not hear the songs: she was too locked in on her task. Throughout the afternoon she said she constantly thought about the sixth Olympic medal that she desperately wanted. Her history is such a part of her identity that her personal email even has a 5x in it a reference to her five straight medals before Friday.
For a while Rhode and Wei were locked in a tight battle, neither woman giving in. She said she tried to listen to the crowd in the stands behind her cheering every hit and going ooooohhhhhhh, when she missed. Its almost like they are helping you to pull the trigger every time out there, she said. Finally she pulled away by one hit. When it was over and history had been made she smiled. She waved to the crowd, found her son and tears formed in her eyes.
Standing up there on that podium its addicting, she said. It has me coming back again and again. Every emotion hits you at once. You want to run, scream, cry and you just dont know which one to do first and it doesnt matter if its a gold, silver, bronze its the journey. My journey was a long one this time and I got a little emotional. Im still emotional and its incredible.
Then soldiers from both the US and Italy brought the flags and they were raised and the medal became official. And the woman who made history for America walked toward an interview tent where she would wade once more into the gun debate, and endorse for president a man who has made her homeland a very divided place.