RIO DE JANEIRO — West Virginia University sophomore Ginny Thrasher claimed the first gold medal of the 2016 Olympic games Saturday.
The 19-year-old Thrasher, the reigning NCAA champion in air rifle and small bore, was assured of no worse than a bronze after her first three shots in the women’s final 10-meter air rifle competition.
She moved into second place after her sixth shot and was in the lead after her 11th.
Thrasher found herself head to head with China’s Li Du with one shot left and needing a score of 10.4 to prevail. Du, a 34-year-old gold medalist in 2004 and 2008, set an Olympic record in the qualification round, shooting a 420.7.
Thrasher hit a dramatic 10.4 on her final shot and soon was grinning on the podium, hand over heart, as the American flag rose and the “Star Spangled Banner” played. Quite an accomplishment considering she fired her first gun only five years ago.
“This is very special for me. For me to start out Rio 2016 with a gold medal for the U.S.A. makes me incredibly proud,” Thrasher told The Washington Post. “I’m happy to positively represent my country.”
The Springfield, Va., native won’t have long to enjoy the moment before recalibrating for her second event, the women’s small bore competition, on Thursday.
Former WVU shooters Petra Zublasing of Italy and Ziva Dvorsak of Slovenia finished 17th and 33rd respectively.