Down, but certainly not out, were Kim Rhode’s chances after an uncharacteristic first-round of 22 targets in the prelims of the 2012 “London Prepares” International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup.  But with calmer skies Friday, the California native fought back to earn Team USA’s first medal of the 10-day World Cup featuring over 800 shooters from 97 countries.

Cold, wet and gusty conditions welcomed the competitors upon arrival at the Olympic venue Thursday on the grounds of the Royal Artillery Barracks making for some unfavorable shooting conditions.  The weather improved slightly on Friday and so did Rhode as she went on to miss just two targets over her next 75 shots.  Her final score of 95 was good enough for bronze after winning a shoot-off with Thailand’s Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit, 4 to 3 hits.

The Chinese champion Wei Ning won the event, after defeating Slovakia’s Danka Bartekova in a sudden-death tiebreaker for the gold medal.

U.S. competitors Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas)and Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pa.) tied one another with a final score of 67 targets after a disappointing third round which saw them drop five targets apiece.

Rhode has now medaled in back-to-back World Cups to begin an Olympic year she hopes will lead to Olympic history.  A medal at the 2012 Olympic Games later this summer would make Rhode the first U.S. athlete competing in an individual sport to medal in five consecutive Olympic Games.  Rhode began her year in Tucson at the opening ISSF World Cup and blistered the home range by notching a perfect 75/75 preliminary score, a new ISSF Qualification World Record, tied the Finals World Record of 99 and also secured a spot to shoot Women’s Trap in London as well.

In Women’s 10-meter Air Rifle contested Thursday, Jamie Gray (Lebanon, Pa.) was the high finisher in 20th position with a score of 396 match points.  Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Mass.) finished 41st with 394 points.  Germany’s Sonja Pfeilschifter would earn the gold medal with a stand-out 105 out of possible 109 points in the final.

In Women’s 10-meter Air Pistol also held on Thursday, Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Ala.) finished in 43rd place with a score of 377 points.  Tien Chia Chen, a 28-year old shooter from Chinese Taipei, won the pistol match as the first-time World Cup winner made it to the final with the highest qualification score of 388 points.   Chen, ranked 33rd in the world in this event, would shoot 101.5 points in the final, keeping her opponents behind and climbing upon the podium with a total score of 488.5 points.

In today’s Men’s 10-Meter Air Pistol match, Daryl Szarenski (WCAP/Seale, Ala.) finished in 22nd place with a score of 578 while teammate Jason Turner (Rochester, N.Y.) finished 29th with a score of 577 points.  Daemyung Lee of Korea won the gold with a score of 691.3, shooting a qualifying score of 591 points.

On tap for Saturday, will be the finals of Men’s Skeet and Men’s 10-meter Air Rifle.  Through two legs of Men’s Skeet, reigning Olympic gold medalist Vincent Hancock (USAMU/Eatonton, Ga.) and Jon Michael McGrath (Tulsa, Okla.), the 2010 Junior World Champion, sit at 72 targets hit and will need to be nearly perfect to earn a berth in the finals.  BJ Blanchard (Vidor, Texas), after shooting 23/25 his first two rounds, shot 21 targets in his third round.

Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, N.J.) will make his Olympic-year debut on Saturday in Men’s 10-Meter Air Rifle as will Jonathan Hall (Carrollton, Ga.).

All fifteen of the ISSF Olympic shooting events – in the disciplines of Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun shooting – will be conducted during the test event that runs through April 28.

photo: USA Shooting

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