I can't remember the last time I paid even slight attention to the Olympics, let alone actually spending any time watching some of the events.
It just seemed silly pretending to be interested in a bunch of obscure sports that most of us Americans know or care little about other those couple of weeks every four years when, like it or not, we are immersed in Olympic coverage. Water polo, badminton, trampoline or beach volleyball are Olympic sports? Give me a break. What is the point of a squad of NBA ringers whupping the likes of Tunisia or Nigeria in basketball? And why do they need literally dozens of swimming events?
In spite of my rabid apathy for most things in the Olympics, I have watched some events this time around for some reason. Two of the first gold medals earned by U.S. Olympians came in skeet shooting, but sadly the shooting sports usually get little more than a passing mention from the talking heads providing the Olympic coverage. That is somewhat unfortunate because the United States is the all-time leader in Olympic shooting success with more than 100 medals, a total almost twice that of the next closest competitor, the now nonexistent Soviet Union.
Not only did Kim Rhode earn the first shooting medal for the U.S. by winning gold at women's skeet shooting in London, but that piece of hardware also made the 33-year-old Californian the first U.S. athlete in history to medal in an individual event at five Olympic Games. Rhode's amazing career as America's Olympic shooting superstar began at Atlanta in 1996 where she became the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting by winning the women's double trap event just days before turning 17. Her Olympic success continued with a bronze medal at Sydney in 2000 followed by another gold medal at Athens in 2004. When double trap was dropped from the Olympics after the 2004 Games, Rhode switched to skeet and won a silver medal in that event at Beijing in 2008.
Shortly after returning from Beijing, Rhode's competition shotgun, a Perazzi 12-gauge aptly named "Old Faithful," was stolen. Losing such a prized gun, one with which she had shot at least a million targets and won multiple Olympic, national and world championships, would not be easy to replace, not to mention the $15,000 $20,000 price tag for that kind of high-grade shotgun. Anonymous donors bought her a new gun, and even though police ultimately recovered Old Faithful a year or so later, Rhode retired it and used the new gun to win gold last week in London.
Rhode has already expressed her goal to go for a six-peat and compete in the Olympics again in 2016 - and probably beyond. To get there and compete at the international level, she will spend the next four years continuing her training regimen of shooting 500 to 1000 targets a day, seven days a week. And by her closest estimate, she has already fired about two million rounds over her stellar shooting career.
America's second shooting medal came when Vincent Hancock of Georgia won gold in men's skeet. This was a repeat win for the 23-year-old Army sergeant who also took the gold in this event at Beijing in 2008.
Jamie Gray of Lebanon, Pa., earned the third shooting gold medal for the United States when she won the women's 50-meter three-position rifle event. Gray, 28, had also competed in Beijing where she just missed winning bronze medals in two events there.
Matt Emmons of New Jersey won a bronze medal in men's 50-meter three-position rifle. Emmons, 31, is also an Olympic veteran, having won a gold medal in 1996 and a silver medal in 2008 in 50-meter prone rifle.