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Virginia “Ginny” Thrasher, who won the first gold medal of the Rio Olympics for Team USA, on Saturday spoke out about gun control laws sparking debate in the U.S. shortly after taking home the top prize at the women’s 10-meter air rifle competition.
Speaking to USA Today, the 19-year-old Olympic shooter expressed sadness over controversial gun legislation clouding the sport of shooting.
“Some of the [controversy surrounding] gun laws in America is just distracting from our sport, which is very different,” Thrasher said. “I just tried to focus on the competition.”
The young athlete scored big for the U.S. Olympic shooting team when she beat out China’s Du Li and Yu Siling (who won silver and bronze, respectively) and set a record of 208.0 at the air rifle event.
On her gold medal win, Thrasher added, “For me to start Rio 2016 with a gold medal for the USA makes me incredibly proud. I started to realize it was a real possibility about halfway through but I pushed that quickly out of my mind.”
Earlier in the week, fellow teammate Kim Rhode publicly criticized California’s gun control measures, telling The Guardian that new legislation passed in her home state has made it difficult for her to practice as extensive background checks are required to purchase ammunition.
“I shoot 500 to 1,000 rounds a day, having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo or when I bring ammo out for a competition or a match — those are very, very challenging for me,” she said.
Rhode is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and member of the National Rifle Association.
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