Marksman eyes first Myanmar medal

Naung Ye Tun honed his shooting technique while serving in Myanmar's navy. He will be gunning for his country's first Olympic medal in Brazil.
Naung Ye Tun honed his shooting technique while serving in Myanmar's navy. He will be gunning for his country's first Olympic medal in Brazil.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

YANGON • Standing rock-still, right arm outstretched, eyes unblinking, Myanmar's only Olympic qualifier squeezes the trigger and sends a pellet slamming into a paper target.

This technique was honed during military service in the nation once run by a junta.

Naung Ye Tun, 33, is gunning for a medal in Rio de Janeiro, where he travels as an outside bet for a podium finish in the 10m and 50m free pistol events.

A medal would be a first for his impoverished South-east Asian nation.

"It's not easy to have a chance to participate in the Olympic Games and it's very difficult to win a medal," he said. "I am hoping for the best."

His hidden talent surfaced during mandatory target practice sessions in the navy, which he joined to escape poverty and a lack of jobs.

He first picked up a pistol in 2005, stunning more experienced military marksmen with victories at naval competitions.

Now, more than a decade later, sport's greatest stage beckons.

"In this sport, mentality is key to success," he said. "Even the best cannot be sure of how they will perform on the day."

The discipline sees shooters fire 60 times in between long intervals.

It is a sport requiring an almost meditative control of the body and mind, relying on an unerring eye, perfect control of breath and ice-cold nerves.

"The decision must be certain and the mind must be stable," Naung said. "Some people meditate and some do yoga, but for me mostly I read books.

"If you don't concentrate, you can't get the meaning of a book. I read to train my mind to find the concentration I need to shoot."

While six invitation spots have been gifted to Myanmar athletes, he is the only one who will represent his country on merit. He qualified through a runner-up spot in a World Cup event in South Korea last year.

"People watching might think shooting is boring... but my mind is at peace when I shoot," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Marksman eyes first Myanmar medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe