"We could do this for a very, very long time, and I look forward to continuing to compete," Kim Rhode tells PEOPLE

By Adam Carlson
July 21, 2021 04:00 AM
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Kim Rhode
Kim Rhode
| Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Almost no one in the world has been an Olympian six times. Not Kim Rhode.

She had just turned 17 when she won her first gold medal in shooting in 1996 and, five Olympics later, she won her sixth medal — a bronze — in Rio de Janeiro, the first female American ever to do so.

While she missed qualifying for the Tokyo Games, she is in Japan as a delegate for the International Shooting Sport Federation and could compete as a Team USA alternate.

"I'm really good with it because I know that I did everything I possibly could and I put it all out there," she said last year. "The two girls that made the team are going to do our country proud. I actually coached one of them."

Rhode, now 42, added then that while "we were all a bit shocked ... now we just move forward and focus on 2024 in Paris. That's what we're doing."

That echoes what told PEOPLE in a previous interview as she was preparing to try and qualify for Tokyo: "We have no shelf life, so we could do this for a very, very long time, and I look forward to continuing to compete."

"I don't look at this being my last Olympics, so we'll see what happens," she said. "L.A. 2028 would be pretty amazing with the hometown crowd."

She never takes it for granted. Indeed, she told PEOPLE, she relishes hearing from other people, including younger shooters — younger women — for whom she has been an influence.

Kim Rhode
Kim Rhode (right) with her dad, Richard, in 2012
| Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty

"Let me tell you, my teammates remind me of that all the time. It's amazing. It's really an honor. That's really an incredible honor to have somebody come up and say that to you," Rhode said. "Every time, I'm humbled by it. In a way, I'm [like] 'pinch me, this is my life.' It's so amazing. It's awesome. I feel really blessed, very fortunate, and incredibly humbled and honored to represent the United States, and wear the red, white, and blue and do all that."

"When I shoot at the local clubs, they tease me all the time: 'She's so nice. We got to let her train, we got to let her train,' " Rhode added. "I love talking to people, hearing their stories and the history, how they got started and to see where it takes them."

"To be able to share the knowledge and pass it on, and see future generations coming up, definitely nipping at my heels, it's fantastic," she said. "That's the future, and that's what we all hope for is to pass it on."

At home with 8-year-old son Carter, with whom she was unknowingly pregnant when she competed in London in 2012, Rhode said rare downtime is basically the opposite of a day on the shooting range.

Instead, "it's either curled up around the fire with a book or watching a movie, spending time with my son." One night they'll be building with Legos; the other they'll construct clay monsters or work on a sled run outside.

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Kim Rhode
From left: Kim Rhode with her son, Carter, in 2016
| Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Carter is also well acquainted with his mom as an athlete, having cheered her on in Rio.

"I hope that one thing he takes [away] is to see mommy up there doing her very best, how hard I work," Rhode told PEOPLE. "He knows when I'm gone and when I'm there, and to have a dream no matter what it is. Maybe it's shooting, maybe it's something else, but to really go for it. That's one thing I really want to instill in him is, like my dad always says, 'This isn't a dress rehearsal. You got one shot at life and you've got to get to enjoy every bit of it.' "

After Rhode's third-place podium finish in London, she said she has been happy with her performance in the years since, including a world championship win in 2019.

She's hopeful for more victories and mindful of the legacy she has already created, but doesn't try to be weighted down.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be what it's going to be. I'm doing the very best I can, and I'm going to lay all the chips out there and see what happens," Rhode said. "You can't have fear in this, in being an Olympian."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23 and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning Aug. 24 on NBC.