Perfection is a rare word when it comes to sports.
Baseball is really the only sport that dares place the word in its rule book. Yet even in baseball’s 143 years, only 22 perfect games have been thrown. While they are incredible feats, they are by no means completely perfect performances by the pitcher – there always seems to be an incredible defensive play made to save the day. Not to mention the pitcher isn’t striking out every batter in 3 pitches.
But American skeet shooter Kimberly Rhode gave as near a perfect performance as any Olympic athlete could, hitting 99 of her 100 attempts en route to an Olympic record, a tied world record and her third career gold medal.
Adding to her prestigious afternoon, Rhode became the first Olympian ever to earn a medal in five straight
Olympic games, dating back to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where she one a gold medal in double tarp as a 17 year old. Now 33, Rhode is clearly still shooting at a high level. She hit 74 of 75 clays in the qualification rounds before shooting a perfect 25 f0r 25 in the finals.
Her feat is even more remarkable given the conditions the event took place in. Rhode was forced to deal with strong winds, sudden changes in lighting, and some rain, yet still had the best performance in history.
Rhode has gone through some tough trials since her last Olympics in Beijing. After returning from China, her $20,000 gun was stolen from her. Considering her parents are still in debt for their house and the lack of media attention (and likely money) that shooting garners, losing such expensive equipment was a huge blow. An anonymous donation allowed her to purchase a new gun, though, and her stolen gun was eventually returned.
Adding to the hardship, Rhode had a cancer scare after a sizable tumor was found in her breast tissue. Luckily, the growth was found to be benign.
After dealing with such adversity, earning a spot in the Olympics another time was an accomplishment.
“The journey is unique to each Olympics, and this was probably my most challenging,” Rhode said. “That makes it sweeter when you are on top of that podium with the national anthem playing and you have that gold medal around your neck.”
With her fifth straight Olympics with a medal, Rhode now elevated herself to a tier above some of America’s biggest legends. Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Al Oerter, and Bruce Baumgartner are the only other Americans to medal in four straight Olympics. Now, Rhode tops them all.
However, she didn’t even top the headlines for the day. Her news was eclipsed by the more major sports, as some surprises in the swimming and gymnastic arenas stole the show.
The US Men’s 4×100 relay gave up a late lead to France and ended up with a silver, Americans dominated the Men’s and Women’s backstroke events, and world champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for a spot in the finals.
Kim Rhode’s success shows just how talented everyone competing the Olympics is. Even in the lesser watched events, there are people dedicating their lives to the sport, spending countless hours practicing and if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll just set a world record or two.