New Zealand's first Rio Games medallist has no doubts she was ready for her big day.

Timaru trap shooter Natalie Rooney won the silver medal in a shootoff with Australian Catherine Skinner to become just the country's second Olympic shooting medallist after smallbore marksman Ian Ballinger at Mexico City in 1968.

One difference: Ballinger's medal was bronze, and Rooney had a chance to win gold early in the shootoff as Skinner faltered early. Rooney had a two-shot advantage but could not finish the job.

"I would have liked gold but just to make that gold medal match was amazing," she said.


"I hadn't had the best of luck in semifinals in the past, so I've worked a lot on that overseas and it showed."

Rooney, who had father Gary in the stands watching, has been rewarded for a pile of hard work since she missed out on the London Games four years ago in a quota spot dispute. That place eventually went to Levin's smallbore shooter Ryan Taylor, now a team mate of Rooney's in Rio.

But Rooney makes no bones about the fact she was not ready in London.

"I am a much better shooter than I was four years ago. Back then I wouldn't have been ready for it and no way would I have medalled, so it's made me a stronger shooter, so I'm really happy."

Rooney has prospered through the work of her Italian coach Andrea Miotti over the last four years.

"It's been incredible. I got a new gun, that was the first step and made a big difference to my shooting, I've been more consistent and my coach has helped me understand what I was doing wrong. I'm better in my movements and have committed to three overseas competitions a year. That's made a big difference, getting that maturity to compete against these girls all the time."

Rooney and Skinner first crossed paths at the youth Olympics in Sydney in 2007. They are old, amiable adversaries.

Today's events have hardened her resolve to press on with her career.


"It's made me want to keep going. I'll definitely keep on shooting."

Her result enables her to attend the world cup final in October in Italy.

But for now, she'll support the other New Zealand shooters, Taylor and Chloe Tipple, and get about to a range of events as just another face in the crowd. Today she was anything but as she put New Zealand on the board in Rio. And home beckons.

"I'm really looking forward to going home. I've been three months away, just getting into my own bed, eating some normal food," she laughed.

Rooney's uncle Peter Grant said the omission from the team in 2012 drove her to success in Rio. "After missing out on the last Olympic Games she probably had a point to prove. It's great for the whole family really."

Her mother Adrienne died in 2013 after battling breast cancer, and Grant said her mum would've been proud of her achievements.

Grant said the family has always been right behind her shooting career. "They always have been, the whole family are right into shooting."

Natalie's brother Sam said he was "absolutely proud" of his younger sister, although he admitted he didn't expect her to do as well as she did.

"I was backing her to be in the top six. But I knew how much she wanted to be on the podium, so in a way I was backing her to get a medal."

He said a keen interest in the sport was a Rooney family trait.

"I've always been into shooting, and it's just the competition, and the challenge, and the rest of the kids followed me from there."

Participating in the same sport also brings with it a fierce sibling rivalry.

"There always is [a rivalry]," Sam said.

"We're always having each other on. She's always been competitive, with her other sports as well, she's always had that in her."

Timaru mayor Damon Odey said Rooney's effort was an example of South Canterbury's strong sporting pedigree. "It's absolutely outstanding," Odey said.

"For the first medal at the Olympics to be won by our own district is a pretty gold result. It's the world stage, she's a local girl, it's unbelievable."

In the Herald's countdown of New Zealand's top Olympic towns, Timaru came in third, with Rooney's latest achievement putting her alongside Danyon Loader, Bob Fitzsimmons and Jack Lovelock as sporting successes originating from the region.

"I 100 per cent agree with that," Odey said.

"We just keep cranking them out down here, and I was at our sports awards a couple of weeks ago and it looks like there's a few more to come as well."

Rooney overcame the disappointment of missing the last Olympics when she was selected to represent New Zealand, but was then booted from the team after an appeal.

She had been nominated by the New Zealand Shooting Federation for the team's sole shooting spot in London. However, rifle shooter Ryan Taylor appealed to the Sports Tribunal, and a ruling in his favour meant Rooney missed out.