Ginny Thrasher was already a national champion. Now, she’s champion of the world.
On Saturday morning, the West Virginia student-athlete came-from-behind to capture the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. She won the women’s 10-meter air rifle event. With the victory, Thrasher captured the first gold medal, out of any sport, at the Rio Olympics.
Thrasher is only 19 years old and is a rising sophomore at WVU. She is one of 10 Mountaineers competing at this, the games of the 31st Olympiad. Thrasher has a few days off before taking part in another Olympic shooting event, the smallbore.
For now, she is on top of the world. She had a press conference with international reporters and a live television interview with sportscaster Dan Patrick. The teenager, who originally hails from a Springfield, Va., is now a household name. She is slowing turning into an American Sweetheart, much like Fairmont, W.Va. native Mary Lou Retton, who starred at the Olympics in 1984.
Thrasher had the odds stacked against her, as she was not a frontrunner to even medal at this event. The Associated Press and Sports Illustrated did not even have her on their radar in the pre-Olympic prediction. Three years ago, according to the Washington Post, Thrasher was the 45th rated junior shooter in the country. Six years ago, she didn’t even take part in the sport. Thrasher was a freshman in high school when she first picked up a rifle and began practicing in a local barn, near her home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Despite her late start in the sport, Thrasher has rose to the top rather quickly. She developed her skills and landed a spot as one of the few females on West Virginia’s team last season. She was the first freshman to win individual and team titles at the NCAA Championships.
She had some Olympics experience even before she tried out at the U.S. Olympic trials earlier in the year. In 2014, she placed third in smallbore at the Junior Olympics. Thrasher also is a three-time state champion in smallbore rifle in the state of Virginia.
What’s great about her skills is that she still has time to develop and accomplish even more in her young career. She will be competing with the Mountaineers, who happen to be the best rifle team in the United States, for three more years. In four years, she will likely be taking part in the Japan Olympics.
As she continues to develop and hone her skills, she will grow into more international spotlight. She likely won’t be growing any taller, though. Thrasher only stands at 5-foot-1. However, in a sport that’s not totally physically demanding, Thrasher thrives in that setting.
“What’s most attractive of rifle is the mental side of the sport,” Thrasher told DKPittsburghSports. “Anyone can go and hit a 10. It’s not that hard. To go and shoot 10 after 10 after 10 in a big event is very hard. You have to have a mastery of the mental side, controlling your emotions, following your process and not thinking about the outcome.”
The concentration and dedication is what makes Thrasher so great at her craft.