Shooting hotshots 'expected to deliver'

EVERY shooter has not one, but two targets.

The first, he views through the sights of his weapon. The second is far bigger, yet cannot be seen. It is the medal target of his team.

For Singapore's shooting contingent, the target is six golds at the upcoming SEA Games, which would signal a return to the sport's past successes.

And just like their demeanour on the shooting range, the Republic shooters are poised, calm and confident of hitting the target.

Despite the fact that nearly a third of the 29-strong squad are making their Games debut, all are tipped to contribute.

"They are expected to deliver. Nobody goes to the major Games just for experience," said the Singapore Shooting Association's high performance chief, Thomas Soo.

In 2007, the Republic's shooters hauled in a record 20 SEA Games medals - including eight golds - from 33 events in Korat, doubling their 10-medal tally from the 2005 Manila Games.

In 2009, with no trap or skeet competitions, the shooters still clinched an impressive six golds. However in the last two Games, with even fewer contested events, they could garner only a solitary gold each time.

This time around, it is back up to 26 events, half of which are team categories where Singapore usually nab their medals - 24 of their 58 medals in the past decade came from team events.

Also returning are the trap and skeet competitions, which offer a total of four golds. The Republic has entered a six-man contingent - including 2005 and 2007 gold medallists Choo Choon Seng and Mohd Zain Amat - for these.

Despite their long absence from the Games, skeet shooter David Chan said that participation in various regional invitationals and the annual South-east Asia Shooting Championships has allowed them to keep an eye on competitors in the small, close-knit community.

The 42-year-old is also confident of his team-mates doing well for the team events. He describes how even those shooters doing well individually tend to shoot with their team-mates in mind.

As he puts it: "Who knows, my hitting an extra target could be making up for my team-mate missing his."

As for the rifle and pistol disciplines, they are a mainstay at the Games, and Singapore's representatives are eager for an improved showing this month.

Seasoned sharpshooter Jasmine Ser feels better prepared this year after having more time to train, recover and improve her mental game after receiving the Sports Excellence scholarship in late 2013.

The award enabled her to train full-time.

Previously, she had been balancing training with her undergraduate studies. Nowadays, she trains twice daily.

"I didn't waste time; I used every bit that I could," she said. "Not just for training, but to recover and relax... to sit down and think carefully and catch a breath."

In her attempt to qualify for a second Olympics, Ser has been fine-tuning her skills at a series of international meets.

She will return home only tomorrow, after spending nearly a month overseas - first as part of the 13-strong Singapore squad for the World Cup in Fort Benning in the United States, then continuing solo for the subsequent Germany leg.

Given that medal expectations weigh heavily on her shoulders, the extra time has been precious.

Even so, she refuses to entertain thoughts of winning gold yet.

"The nature of shooting and the competition itself is so intense that your focus has to be on your own muscles," the 25-year-old said. "Just a slight twitch and you will get a bad shot."

chingyl@sph.com.sg

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