She wasn't a real medal threat, or so they thought. Virginia "Ginny" Thrasher was ranked 23rd in the world when she beat four-time Olympic champion Du Li and London Games gold medal winner Yi Siling. Her competition soon learned not to underestimate a determined American.
At just 19 years old, Thrasher is the youngest shooter on Team USA and on August 6, she became their first medal winner. Thrasher won the gold and set an olympic record with her score of 208.0 in the women's 10 meter air rifle competition.
Virginia "Ginny" Thrasher is in the zone as she competes for the gold on August 6, 2016.
"This is beyond my wildest dreams," said Thrasher, in an interview for the Washington Post.
Thrasher was all business during the competition. Zeroing in on the target and putting everything else out of her mind, she pointed her Feinwerkbau 700 air rifle at the target nearly 33 feet away and pulled the trigger. Each time her aim was true: in 20 rounds, she scored within the 10 points target area.
"About halfway through when I took the lead it kind of became clear to me that I was in contention for a medal, but I quickly pushed that thought away and focused on breathing and taking one shot at a time," Thrasher said.
Her focus and dedication paid off. Thrasher smashed the finals with a bull's-eye on her first shot, earning her a perfect 10.9 score. She sailed through the remainder of the round clinching her victory and claiming the gold.
Calm, cool and collected, Thrasher seemed born to shoot, but it wasn't her first love. In fact, before she picked up a rifle, Thrasher had dreams of being an Olympic figure skater. Fate had other plans.
"It was something I loved, but it was a hobby," she said. "I kind of dreamed of going to the Olympics in it, but it was a very unrealistic dream."
She first picked up a gun in eighth grade when her grandfather taught her how to hunt. "I got my first deer and I liked the adrenaline of pulling the trigger," she told Reuters. She would go on to join her high school air rifle team, where she was recruited by West Virginia University. In her first year on the West Virginia team, she was named national collegiate champion.
Now, with a gold medal around her neck, no one will mistake her for the underdog. Thrasher has the skills and mindset of a champion.
In those moments, you really have to focus on what's important. The medals are amazing. But it's not what's important," she said. "What's important is taking the best shot you can and giving your all. . . . The medal is just an outcome of what I'm doing."
Fans can watch her compete for the 50-meter rifle three positions event this Thursday, August 11.
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