True Grit

Rather than simply exulting in her victory, she faced a daunting decision: either retire from Olympic competition or start all over again in a new event. Rhode opted for the latter and began a long training program with the objective of making the U.S. National Shooting Team in International Skeet.

She succeeded. She then not only won the gold medal in her first World Cup as an International Skeet shooter, but set a new world record in her World Cup debut.

That kind of determined success reminds me of Tiger Woods. When he’s on a roll, which lately seems to be always, he’s relentless. So is Rhode. I’ve met her, and in social situations she is a graceful spokesperson for the shooting sports. But she is, obviously, a fierce competitor. While training for the 2004 Olympics at the Oak Tree Gun Club near her home in California, she practiced for five to six hours a day, shooting thousands of targets. Just think of the physical and mental stamina needed to do that.

So now Rhode’s efforts have brought her another opportunity to continue her Olympic career.

“Because I had to switch events and become an International Skeet shooter, this victory feels like I’m winning for the first time,” she says. “There are simply no words to describe what I felt at that moment when I knew that I had won.”

Any other athlete who demonstrated the character, determination and success of Rhode would have earned the undivided attention of the mass media. But I fear that because she’s a shooter, mainstream media charts a detour around her and the sport. And that’s shame, for she embodies what Americans cherish most about a champion--grace under pressure. Call it True Grit.

—Slaton White