The United States finished the Olympic Games in Rio with 121 medals, including 46 gold – both tops for the competition – but it was a Fairfax County resident that got things started.
Ginny Thrasher, a 2015 graduate of West Springfield High School, earned our country’s first gold medal on Aug. 6 after topping the field in the women’s 10-meter air rifle event. The 19-year-old – now an engineering major at West Virginia University – finished above 50 other competitors, including the defending Olympic champion from China and the top-ranked shooter in the world from Serbia.
Thrasher wanted to be a figure skater while growing up and hadn’t shot a gun until a few years ago while on a hunting trip with her grandfather, father and two brothers. During her first year at West Springfield, she realized skating wasn’t her strength and switched sports.
“I moved to Springfield right before my freshman year and found out the high school had an air rifle team,” said Thrasher. “I went to an open shooting night at an event in Centreville and fell in love with the sport and joined the team.”
It didn’t take long for Thrasher to rise to the top. In high school, she was a three-year team captain and four-time MVP for her team, and she was the 2015 Virginia air rifle state champion. She also won five medals at the 2015 USA Shooting national championships to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team.
At West Virginia University, she helped the Mountaineers win a fourth consecutive NCAA championship and she won the individual smallbore and air rifle titles at the event – the first freshman in history to win both.
Thrasher currently owns more than 20 National Rifle Association and USA Shooting records, and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She plans to continue shooting at West Virginia University for the next three years and hopes to make the Olympic team again in 2020 in Tokyo.
However, it’s her outlook on life that may be more impressive than her athletic accomplishments. “My goal is not to win a medal or NCAA championship,” she explains. “It’s to become the best person I can be – athlete, student and teammate. It doesn’t matter how successful you are or how many medals you win if you’re not happy with yourself.”