Olympics

Virginia Thrasher helps Team USA nab first gold in Rio Olympics

Virginia Thrasher, center, shows off the first gold medal awarded at the Rio Olympics. China’s Du Li, left, won the silver and Yi Siling took the bronze in the 10-meter air rifle.
Virginia Thrasher, center, shows off the first gold medal awarded at the Rio Olympics. China’s Du Li, left, won the silver and Yi Siling took the bronze in the 10-meter air rifle. AP

Virginia Thrasher has a gold medal, but it won’t get her a pass with her physics professor. She will return to classes at West Virginia only 20 hours after returning to the U.S. on Aug. 17.

“I’ll be in physics at 8:30 a.m.,” she said.

Thrasher might want to volunteer for the first show and tell in class. Only 19 and in just her second international competition, Thrasher won the Rio Games’ first gold medal. IOC President Thomas Bach hung the medal around her neck.

“I’m so happy to start off Rio 2016 with a gold medal for my country,” Thrasher said. “I’m very proud.”

It marked the first upset in the Games. China was the favorite to dominate in 10-meter air rifle as it did in 2012 with gold and bronze medals.

Instead, Thrasher became the first U.S. winner in the event since Nancy Johnson in 2000 as she scored 208 points in a new finals format.

China’s Du Li, who set an Olympic record with a 420.7 score in qualifying, took the silver with 207. China’s Yi Siling, the defending Olympic champion, wore the bronze with 185.4.

This is beyond my wildest dreams,” Thrasher said. “But I knew it was realistic to get into the finals, and once get into finals anything can happen.”

Thrasher, a Springfield, Va., native, learned to shoot with her grandfather.

“I got my first deer, and I loved the adrenaline,” Thrasher said.

She went on to shoot in high school and then was recruited to West Virginia, where she became the first freshman to win both the individual NCAA rifle title and the team title. Thrasher than won the U.S. Olympic Trials and now has an unexpected gold medal.

“I’ve been working very hard, and I’m very happy to be able to come and do this,” Thrasher said. “It’s been a whirlwind of a summer. I’ve been traveling internationally the entire summer. This is just the icing on the cake.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

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