Four-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode chasing perfection in Women's Skeet.
TUCSON, AZ - With three of the top-four finishers in Women's Skeet, Team USA wasted no time making its presence known at the 2012 International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) Shotgun World Cup in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday afternoon.
The fireworks began well before half the finals field was donning USA on their shooting vests, with four-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.) proving to everyone that she's on her game this Olympic year with a perfect 75 targets hit in match competition in the first World Cup of the season. Rhode beat the previous World Record of 74/75 set by Elena Little (GBR) at the 2005 ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Belgrade (SRB). The 74/75 record had been equaled 13 times since then including Rhode, who equaled the mark twice in 2010 at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing (CHN) and at the ISSF World Cup Final in Izmir (TUR).
Entering the final with an almost insurmountable five target advantage on her competitors, the only thing in question was whether Rhode would be the first to reach perfection in the event. But Rhode would miss oneclay on the second station and instead had to settle for a 99, equaling the Finals World Record.
"It's great to start the season in this way, on my home turf, especially as we are getting closer to the Olympics," Rhode said.
Rhode, already qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London after winning the 2010 World Championships, is trying to make Olympic history by becoming the first U.S. athlete competing in an individual sport to win five medals in five consecutive Olympic Games.
About the missed target ending a World Record run, Rhode said: "I was so close. People tend to find a million excuses for their mistakes, but no excuses, I just missed that target."
Rhode isn't done competing yet as she'll be shooting for a Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS) later this week in Women's Trap.
The silver medal went to Italy's Diana Bacosi, ranked 58th in the world before today's match, who had made it to the final with a qualification score of 70 hits in second place. Hitting 22 targets in the final, the Italian met the second U.S finalist, 18-year-old Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas), in a shoot-off for the silver medal, beating her 92+6 to 92+5 hits.
"I'm excited about being in this position to start the year," said Drozd, who earned her first World Cup podium. "The conditions (gusty) were similar to the elements I practice in at home, so you can say I was comfortable with it."
Womens Skeet podium from the ISSF World Cup.
Competing in her first World Cup, Morgan Craft (Hughesville, Pa.), 18, finished fourth overall with a 91, entering as the third American finals qualifier with a score of 69 hits. The Lindenwood College (Mo.) student won a Junior Bronze medal at the 2011 ISSF Shotgun World Championships.
"For my first World Cup, this feels pretty good," said Craft afterwards. "I'm happy I put myself in position to make finals and it's a great boost of confidence for the rest of the year."
"Kim reassured her dominance in this sport with a great performance to begin the year," said USA Shooting National Team Coach Bret Erikson. "It was just as nice to see the younger girls battling with some of the best in the world and showcasing the depth we're building in women's skeet."
Men's Skeet Preliminaries
Through the first two rounds of Men's Skeet, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Sergeant Vincent Hancock (USAMU/Eatonton, Ga.) and BJ Blanchard (Vidor, Texas) sit two targets back with 48 targets hit. The 2010 Junior World Champion, Jon Michael McGrath (Tulsa, Okla.), struggled with an opening 22 targets, only to rebound with a perfect 25 in the second round.
The ISSF Shotgun World Cup continues tomorrow with the two more rounds of Men's Skeet qualifiers followed by the event finals scheduled at 3:30 PM (PT) tomorrow afternoon. Follow the match on www.issf-sports.org and on http://www.youtube.com/issfchannel.