Ginny Thrasher, a 19-year old from the University of West Virginia, took the first of the more than 300 gold medals that will be awarded at the Olympics in Brazil, winning the 10-meter air rifle on Saturday.
Thrasher, the youngest of the 15 members of the U.S. rifle team, bested a field of 50 competitors, comfortably winning the final duel with China’s Du Li, who won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
In the air rifle competition, shooters use pellets with a flat fronts that leave clean holes in the paper target that determines scoring.
Thrasher is from Springfield, Va., and first began shooting five years ago when she went deer hunting with her grandfather.
“It was just a big rush of adrenaline,” Thrasher said of her first hunting trip in an interview with The Washington Post. “Things were happening very fast and all of a sudden, my aim was good and it was an exciting feeling.”
As a freshman at West Virginia this past year, she won both NCAA air rifle titles as she led her school to a national title in the sport.
“I didn’t really care much about the Olympics,” Thrasher told The Post last month, after she qualified for the U.S. team. “I knew shooting was an Olympic sport, but I never really thought, ‘Oh, I want to go to the Olympics in shooting.’ I was just shooting because I loved shooting.”
After a dazzling opening ceremony on Friday night, the first full day of competition at the Rio Games on Saturday also featured swimming, water polo, cycling and beach volleyball.