Inspired by the recent medal-winning feats of Singapore's national shooters, Phoebe Chong tasted victory when she topped the 10m air rifle category of yesterday's Learn-To-Shoot (LTS) Junior Shoot-Out.
The 11-year-old from Westwood Primary School said: "Shooting is more interesting and fun than I expected. It trains my focus and patience. I'm happy to win my first medal and I want to continue to enjoy the sport."
Such enthusiasm is exactly what the LTS aims to achieve. It has welcomed more than 1,000 participants since the Singapore Sports School (SSP) introduced it in 2012.
More than 40 per cent of that initial cohort have progressed to represent the Republic, including the likes of Martina Veloso, who won two golds at this month's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
To broaden the base of air pistol and air rifle shooters in the 11 to 12-year-old range of the LTS programme, the SSP this year has teamed up with the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA). They hope to increase the current enrolment of 150 pupils to 600 over five intakes per year.
SSA high performance manager Jeanine Heng said: "We want to raise awareness for primary school students and their parents to let them know that even though it is not a primary school co-curricular activity, there is this opportunity for them to shoot.
"Our population is not as large as shooting powerhouses India, so we have to do more. If we can get more young shooters, we can also analyse what makes a good shooter and use the data to further improve.
The SSP already partners seven schools for the LTS but the tie-up with SSA will offer more resources and manpower - the SSA has assigned a full-time co-ordinator for this project - and expects more schools to come on board.
SSP shooting academy acting head coach Lim Chea Rong said the partnership makes sense for all parties and "the children in this programme may also have the opportunity to be offered Direct Schools Admission into our academy."
Adele Tan was part of the inaugural LTS batch in 2012 and joined the national team last year. The 19-year-old teamed up with Ho Xiu Yi and Veloso to win a silver medal in the 10m air rifle team event at the ISSF Junior World Championships in Germany.
Tan said: "After enrolling for the LTS, I liked the sport because it is relatively quiet and allows me to internalise my feelings. I eventually won the junior shoot-out and I'm thankful for the exposure to the sport. I went on to join SSP, and the system here has allowed me to grow to a higher level."
National team-mate Irwan Abdul Rahman had a similar experience with the LTS. The 18-year-old, who won silver in the men's 10m air rifle at last year's SEA Games, said: "It is a good kick-start for me to go on and become a national shooter and I think it is good that the LTS is approaching young students.
"Even though age is not that big a factor in shooting, athletes will retire at some point and this collaboration will help to create a bigger, and hopefully endless, talent pool to ensure continuous renewal."
Visit singaporeshooting.org for more information.