Six-time Olympic trap-and-skeet shooter, Kim Rhode, has competed in three Olympic shotgun events; trap, double trap, and skeet. She has medaled in all six Olympics since her first one in 1996.That’s six different Olympic games where she has taken on the world’s best shooting sports athletes and won. Rhode has three gold medals (Skeet and Double Trap), while taking home three more medals, making her achievements unlike anything in the history of the Olympic games.
You might expect as much from Rhode, a star of Team USA and Team Winchester, who chooses Winchester® AA® shotshells for her competitions. Kim started competitive shooting at age 10 and was winning World Championships by 13. What you might not expect is that she had, like all beginning shooters, her own fears to face.
Even Kim Rhode had that one bird that was the hardest for her to break. Instead of shying away from it in practice, though, she says to confront it.
“You need to stand on that station and shoot until you can shoot 10 straight.” From there, you keep shooting it until you bust 25 straight and make it your easiest station.
To help you recognize your hardest shot, have a friend log your competition rounds on a score sheet. Afterward, you can see a pattern of which station your highest number of misses is on, say High Two or Low Six, for example. Now, when you practice, those are the stations you want to work on until you can break 10 straight. Then practice to break 25 straight.
“This was a tremendous help to me,” Kim says, “especially when I was first starting to shoot in competitions.”
Set up your stance to carry yourself more upright. Bending at the waist or squatting with the knees is tiring over the course of a long competition. It can lead to a poor habit of bobbing up and down while “driving” to the target. Stand more erect with the knees slightly bent and not locked. A posture such as that, according to Rhode, “allows you a more smooth swing and follow through and doesn’t fatigue you as the day goes on.”
There is hardly any sport in which the concept of follow-through is not integral. Nobody breaks targets who stops and starts the swing of his or her shotgun barrels. Rhode has a drill for improving your swing, though it seems more like sound advice: “Shoot the target and then shoot a piece of the broken bird. This encourages you to keep your head down and follow through.”
The final tip is, as is so often the case with any sport, about mental focus.
“During a competition,” Rhode says, “don’t pay attention to what the other shooters are doing or what their scores are.”
Rhode tells us to focus on your own best, not your competitors.
“Focus on what you’ve been working on in practice,” she says, “and what you came to achieve.”
“Set small goals,” she continues, “and work to achieve them rather than focusing on trying to beat this person or shoot that perfect score.”
While Rhode’s most important tip may be, “Don’t miss!” she doesn’t want us to forget to look in the end, “at the positives.”
And she adds, “Most importantly enjoy the competitions, the places, and people,” which is what clays shooting is really all about.
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