Every four years, the Shooting Sports emerge from the shadows and take their place among the 26 sports fighting for the attention of billions. Misunderstood, under-recognized and somewhat ill-perceived, USA Shooting’s top stars clamor for their rightful place among the attention-grabbing headliners of Team USA.

Never before in the history of shooting has the prospect of doing so been within reach, but Sunday in London, the eyes of the world will be tracking every heart-pounding shot fired by a California dreamer named Kim Rhode (actually pronounced ROW-dee). By 9:45 Eastern (2:45 pm in London), Rhode could re-write the annuls of U.S. Olympic history by becoming the first American ever to win five Olympic medals in five consecutive Olympic Games in an individual sport.  Think back on the greatest Olympians of all-time – Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Lou Retton, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Peggy Fleming, Bonnie Blair – and none of them ever stood where Rhode could potentially be standing on this mid-summer day in London.

She emerged on the shooting scene as a bright-eyed teenager in Atlanta 1996 winning a gold medal in women’s double trap on July 23 that year.  Sixteen years later she’s still dominating her sport, albeit in a different event after women’s double trap was eliminated after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Among the 17 Olympic competitors, Rhode will face the two women who she battled in the medal shoot-off during the 2008 Olympic Games: Italy’s Chiara Cainero and Christie Brinker of Germany.  The scores, however, have steadily risen over the past four years as Rhode set a new world record of 75/75 targets at the ISSF World Cup Tucson in May.  Throughout the 2011 World Cup and World Championship circuit, the minimum score required to advance to the final was 70/75 targets. The minimum score from the 2008 Olympic Games was 69 targets, so expect to see high scores posted from the Royal Artillery Barracks.

In addition to Cainero and Brinker, Rhode will have to defeat Chinese athlete Wei Ning, the current No. 3 in the world and Slovakia’s Danka Bartekova who won the silver medal at the ISSF “London Prepares” test event in April.

Format:  Shooters fire from eight different designated shooting stations at a series of ‘singles’ and simultaneous ‘doubles’ from separate trap houses – high and low – located at each end of an arc of a circle of about 40 meters in diameter.  Targets are released from zero to three seconds after the shooter’s call.  The top-six competitors in each event advance to the 25-target finals.  Qualification: 75 targets in three rounds of 25.

Image courtesy USA Shooting

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