SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Aiming high pays off for Myanmar's wounded shooter May Poe Wah

May Poe Wah of Myanmar topped the eight-strong field to win gold, her first SEA Games medal in three editions.
May Poe Wah of Myanmar topped the eight-strong field to win gold, her first SEA Games medal in three editions.

Myanmar's May Poe Wah cut a cool, calm figure as she steadily shot her way to SEA Games gold in the women's 10m air pistol final yesterday.

Only after topping the eight-strong field with her score of 234.4 did the smiles come from the 29-year-old, as she was congratulated by coach Thawng Khan Khai and her team-mates.

The scene at the National Shooting Range in Subang was a stark contrast to that of her SEA Games debut at the 2013 edition in Myanmar. Then, May hid from her home fans and sobbed tears of disappointment after missing out on a podium finish in the same event.

She had been the top finisher in the qualifying rounds then but struggled in the final.

She recalled: "I was very sad. That was a big mistake - it was a big failure in my life because my country was hosting the SEA Games."

It was an experience that the distraught shooter took a while to recover from, revealed coach Thawng.

"She expected a lot (of herself)," added the 39-year-old, who has known May for six years.

"Now, she is very strong mentally."

As May trained and competed more, the wounds slowly healed.

"At every competition, everyone can face a win or a loss - I can fail sometimes and I can win sometimes," she said.

"I just have to do what I do in training, and maybe the win will come to me."

It did.

Yesterday's gold was May's first SEA Games medal - she did not qualify for the final during the 2015 Games in Singapore.

Dedicating the victory to her two-year-old daughter Juju, an elated May said: "I did not expect to win... I cannot believe it."

Another medallist who did not expect to stand on the podium yesterday was Singaporean Ong Jun Hong, who finished second in the men's 50m rifle prone.

The 29-year-old's score of 239.5 was behind Malaysian winner Ezuan Nasir Khan's 242.8. Myanmar's Kaung Htike (220.2) was third.

Ong, whose silver medal is his first individual one in the 50m rifle prone event, said his feat had been unexpected as the target had suddenly been switched from paper to electronic, and he did not have enough time to adapt.

"If you had told me yesterday that I would win a silver medal, I would have been very happy about it," he said.

"Now, listening to the commentary, it sounded like I lost the lead, but I'll just think about what happened in the lead-up to this and I'll settle for the silver medal today."

Ong and 2014 Asian Games silver medallist Ezuan had occupied the top two spots throughout the final.

The Singaporean, competing in his eighth SEA Games but first individual 50m rifle prone final, revealed that he had found the experience "stressful".

"I could feel my heart pounding fast and it was something pretty unfamiliar to me because you can't replicate (that stress) on a daily basis," he said.

"It affected the stability of the weapon… I was working on keeping the weapon as stable as possible and finding the best possible opportunity to pull the trigger."

Ong, a shooting coach, added that his participation at future SEA Games remains "up in the air".

"I used to set a deadline that I wanted to end at the 2015 Games in Singapore but here I am again… it wasn't satisfying the last time," he said. "I hope to end with a gold so I decided to (continue), obviously I didn't get a gold this time, so we'll see - a lot can happen in two years."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'Aiming high pays off for wounded shooter May'. Print Edition | Subscribe