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For U.S., Rhode is No. 1 with a bullet

By Dan Di Sciullo, Olympics Writer

London, England (Sports Network) - You could call Kim Rhode a one-percenter and it would have nothing to do with the amount of money in her bank account or her membership in an outlaw biker gang.

No, Rhode isn't a Wall Street fat cat or even a Hells Angel. Instead, the U.S. shooter is someone who made history by missing only one percent of the 100 skeets she took aim at on her sport's biggest stage.

Rhode, who was already considered one of the greatest shooters in U.S. history before these games even started, turned in one of the most dominating shooting performances in Olympic history on Sunday. She hit 99 of the 100 targets to win the skeet competition in nearly flawless fashion at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London.

But, the way in which Rhode won tells only a fraction of the story. She not only didn't need to be nearly perfect to make history, Rhode didn't even have to win gold or silver to do something no other American Olympian had ever achieved. That's because even a bronze medal would've allowed Rhode to become the first American to win a medal at five straight Olympics.

Granted, U.S. Olympic legends like Carl Lewis, Bonnie Blair and Mark Spitz had tougher fights against Father Time because they competed in more traditionally athletic endeavors that are dominated by young people. Still, that's also not entirely fair to Rhode because at 33 years of age, she is still very young for her sport.

A California native, Rhode was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1996 Atlanta Games, where she won the first of her record three gold medals in women's shooting. Back then, Rhode competed in the double trap event and she went on to win two more medals in that discipline -- a bronze at the 2000 Sydney Games and another gold eight years ago in Athens -- before switching over to skeet.

After earning a silver in her first Olympic skeet competition in Beijing, Rhode won the 2010 world championship and entered London as the clear favorite for gold.

In fact, the only obstacle that seemed to stand between Rhode and her place in history was her difficulty in getting on a flight overseas. After her flight from Newark to Denmark -- where her pre-Olympic training was to take place -- was canceled twice, Rhode's reissued ticket was eaten by her pet toy poodle Norman, who the shooter has nicknamed "hell on wheels."

Despite the canine interference, Rhode eventually found her way to the other side of the pond and took a bite out of the record books.

Rhode's history-making performance began with an Olympic record score in the qualification round, as she missed only one target out of 74 shots.

She then erased any doubt about who would take the gold, nailing all 25 targets in the final to tie the world record with her gaudy total score of 99, a number that blew the Olympic record of 93 out of the water. Rhode had shared the record of 93, which she and two other women turned in at the Beijing Olympics, but Italy's Chiara Cainero wound up winning gold in a shoot- off.

This time, Rhode didn't leave anything to chance. Her closest competition on Sunday was China's Wei Ning, who hit a total of 91 shots to fall way short of the standard set by Rhode. In those terms it was the most dominating performance in Olympic shooting history, with Rhode securing the largest margin percentage between first and second place.

With her latest Olympic performance, Rhode also became the fifth person to win an individual medal at five consecutive games. She is only the second Olympian to achieve that feat at the Summer Games, joining Japanese judoka Ryoko Tani, who turned in her string of medal wins from 1992-2008.

But, while Tani has left her Olympic career behind to pursue a political career in Japan, it seems extremely likely that Rhode has at least one more Summer Games left in her. After all, she'd have another chance at history at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where a gold, silver, or bronze would make Rhode the first person to ever medal at six straight Olympics.

Rhode certainly didn't seem like somebody who would take a shot at the Olympic record books for granted in London. Don't count on her passing up another opportunity in four years' time.

07/29 13:21:00 ET

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