RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Five years ago, Ginny Thrasher gave up figure skating for shooting after killing a deer with her first shot on her first hunting trip with her family.
Saturday morning, the 19-year-old NCAA national champion at West Virginia stepped into the first medal event of the Olympics, the women's 10-meter air rifle final, and won.
"This is beyond my wildest dreams," she said.
The American, a Springfield, Va., native, was one of eight competitors to emerge from the 50-woman qualification round. The final duel came down to Thrasher and China's Li Du, 34, who won gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Thrasher beat Du by a full point, a wide margin in perhaps the Games' most precise sport. Defending champion Siling Yi of China was third.
"In the finals, about halfway through, it kind of became clear to me that I was in contention for a medal," Thrasher said. "But I quickly pushed that thought away and focused on breathing, just taking one shot at a time."
This year Thrasher became the first freshman to sweep both NCAA individual air rifle titles while helping West Virginia capture its fourth straight national title.
For me, this year has been incredible," she said.