She began her finals bid with a stunning bull’s-eye that yielded a perfect score of 10.9, eventually outlasting Serbia’s top-ranked Andrea Arsovic and China’s defending Olympic champion Siling Yi. Not that the 10.9 score gave her an extra jolt of confidence.
“I thought, ‘Oh no. It is very hard to come back from a 10.9,’ ” Thrasher said at a news conference shortly after the competition.
“I am honestly just happy to be here. This is beyond my wildest dreams . . . Once you get into the finals, anything can happen.”
The final duel came down to Thrasher and Li Du, China’s 34-year-old who won gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Thrasher, well, thrashed her veteran opponent by a full point, a wide margin in perhaps the Games’ most precise sport.
“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 said. “I’m happy to positively represent my country.”
Earlier this year, Thrasher became the only freshman ever to sweep both NCAA individual air rifle titles while helping West Virginia capture its fourth straight national title.
Sarah Scherer, Thrasher’s 25-year-old teammate, finished eighth among the event’s 50 competitors. Competing in her final Games, Scherer sat out for much of the past two years after undergoing two major back surgeries to repair herniated discs.