NEWHALL, Calif. -- Kim Rhode slips two shells into her 12-gauge shotgun, yells "Pull!" and takes dead-aim on the first target, then a second one whizzing through the air. She hits both cleanly, leaving orange clouds of chalk hanging in the cool air.
She reloads and does it repeatedly, with father and coach Richard Rhode pushing the buttons that remotely launch the targets on the skeet field named for the four-time Olympic medalist.
Rhode has already become the first U.S. athlete nominated to the team for next year's London Olympics. But she's not taking it easy while others train, wait and worry about making the Summer Games.
"I choose to shoot every day because I want to push myself through the highs and the lows that come with anything," she said during a break at Oaktree Gun Club off Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.
"It's a lot of hard work and drilling and repetition. That mental side of the game really plays in. There's so many little things that go into it."
Training means shooting 500 to 1,000 rounds per day, usually seven days a week.
Rhode spends a lot of money on lead going for more gold. She goes through four cases of shells at $100 a box and $300 worth of targets, costing her about $700 every day of training. Her custom-made, 9-pound Italian shotgun is worth about $20,000.
The 31-year-old from El Monte, Calif., has sponsors who help pay for her training and travel to competitions. She earns money through endorsements, coaching, giving speeches and signing autographs.
The longest break from training she's taken was a two-week honeymoon to the South Pacific two years ago after marrying Mike Harryman, who works in heating and air conditioning.
Rhode (pronounced Roady) got into the sport as a youngster accompanying her parents to the shooting range. Her mother, Sharon, was shooting when she was eight months pregnant with her only daughter.
"Some people bowl, we went and shot skeet," Richard said. "It was very obvious at a very young age that she had the capability of shooting really good scores."
Rhode first competed in skeet as a 10-year-old.
"It's something that I really gravitated towards because of the challenge," she said, noting she's 5-foot-4. "It's one of the few games that doesn't matter how big or how small you are, you really are on an equal playing field. Everybody is equal when you step out on that line."
Her father added, "It's not strength. It's eye-hand coordination, the ability to slow everything down and shoot."
Rhode won her first Olympic medal in double trap at the 1996 Atlanta Games, becoming at 17 the youngest female shooting champion in the games' history. She added a bronze medal in 2000 and another gold in 2004.
After women's double trap was dropped from the Olympics, Rhode changed to skeet and won a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. She proudly shows visitors her medals and the well-worn ribbons they hang on.
In London, Rhode has a chance to become the first American athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics in an individual sport.
"Definitely, I don't think London will be my last (Olympics), I don't think 2016 will be my last," she said. "If I can continue to perform at that level, then you'll definitely see me. It's something you can do for years and years."
At the same time, the down-to-earth defending world skeet champion with the long ponytail, French manicure and diamond stud earrings is realistic.
"There are some really fantastic shooters, especially some of the people that I'm coaching and training, they very easily could overtake me at any point," she said.
Rhode has overcome her shotgun being stolen after the Beijing Olympics (she got it back), an injury to her shoulder in a skiing accident, and most recently, surgery to remove a 2-inch cyst in her breast that was non-cancerous.
Her shoulder area is still sore, so she has yet to return to full strength as she prepares for a competition in Colorado Springs, Colo., that will decide the team for the Pan American Games this fall.
When Rhode isn't training, she's studying to finish three more classes to earn a college degree in food marketing and agribusiness, collecting rare children's books and antiques, and tending to her classic car collection that includes a Cobra she built from a kit.
If prodded, Rhode will show off some of her Annie Oakley-like skills, including tossing a dime in the air and shooting it to smithereens.
"I love this with a passion," she said. "I do it for a lot of fun, but at the same time it's just a game."