Virginia ‘Ginny’ Thrasher became the first gold medalist at the Rio Olympics Saturday morning by winning the 10-meter air rifle event. The Springfield, Virginia native is a freshman at West Virginia.
The 19-year-old had a 208.0 score. The silver and bronze medals went to Du Li and Siling Yi of China, respectively.
Here’s a look at Thrasher’s life and career:
1. Thrasher First Wanted to be an Ice Skater
Thrasher has only been competing in shooting for five years, since she originally wanted to be an ice skater. By ninth grade though, she figured out that ice skating wasn’t in her future.
“To be honest, I was never very good at it,” Thrasher told the Washington Post.
“What she achieved as a freshman in college is as good as anyone in the last 10 years or more,” West Virginia rifle Coach Jon Hammond told the Post. “The things she’s achieved just this year, it’s not very often that someone achieves that. Usually it’s someone who has international experience and has been shooting for a long time. Not a college freshman.”
Her Team USA profile lists her other interests as reading, traveling and hunting. She is majoring in Engineering at WVU.
2. She Picked up Five Medals at the 2015 USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle & Pistol
Thrasher already has a room-full of awards that her gold medal will join. According to her WVU profile, she won five medals at the 2015 USA Shooting National Championships for Rifle/Pistol. She also won a gold medal at the 2015 USA Shooting National Championships.
NBC Olympics notes that she was the first freshman shooter to win two individual NCAA titles and earn an Olympic berth in the same month.
She also previously participated in an event in Rio. She came in 10th at the 2016 ISSF Rio World cup. She also came in fourth at the 2016 ISSF Munich World Cup.
3. She Got Interested in Shooting When Hunting With Her Grandfather
Thrasher’s rise is nothing short of remarkable. It was only five years ago that she became interested in shooting when she was on a hunting trip with her grandfather, father and her two brothers, Carl and Rory. When her father, Roger, told her there was a deer nearby, she took her gun and shot the deer.
“The adrenaline rush was incredible,” she told The Associated Press.
“They didn’t think I was going to pull the trigger. They didn’t think I could kill a deer,” Thrashertold the Washington Post. That thrill inspired her to consider shooting as her sport of choice.
Thrasher also worked with WVU sports psychologist Raymond Prior, who helped her get focused on the process of her sport.
“Changing my mindset from someone that was focused on outcome, which creates a very inconsistent performer, to someone that’s now focused on process, has made me more consistent, better and happier as a shooter,” she told Women’s Sports Outdoor News.
4. She Helped WVU Win a Fourth Consecutive NCAA Championship
The WVU Mountaineers is a dominant team for shooters. During her freshman year, she helped the team win a fourth consecutive NCAA championship just before she got her Rio spot. She’s the youngest member of Team USA’s shooting team.
Thrasher also won the individual smallborne and air rifle titles at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
“My focus is completely on me and completely on my process,” Thrasher told WV Always.com. “I know that there will be some people that I know, some former West Virginia people there, and I think it will be great to see them and compete against them. My goal is to just go there and shoot the best that I can.”
5. Her Father Is in the Military & She Moved Nine Times in Her Childhood
According to Women’s Outdoor News, Thrasher’s father was in the Air Force, so she moved around the country nine times before she was in ninth grade, when her family settled in Virginia. She was born in Rome, New York.
“Shooting is a family thing for us,” Thrasher said in an interview. “My grandpa has taken me hunting several times. My dad was in the Air Force and likes to go shooting. Both of my brothers are very good shots. All of my family is very supportive of my shooting career and they’ve had a great influence on me.”
Heading into the Olympics, her real goal wasn’t to win a medal, but to master the sport, she told WV Always. She loves how it is a mental sport.
“I’ve gotten to this point in my career by focusing on my process, and myself, and not having any thought about outcome. I just want to continue that attitude going into the Olympics and all of my future matches,” Thrasher said.