Nominee #2: Martina Lindsay Veloso (Shooting)

ST Athlete of the Year nominee: It's mind over matter for Martina Lindsay Veloso

Find out what are national shooter Martina Veloso's lesser-known talents outside the rifle range. The 19-year-old also talks about her inspiration and her toughest moment in 2018.
National shooter Martina Lindsay Veloso, 19, first made waves in 2014 as the youngest winner of a World Cup leg at age 14. Last year, she won two of Singapore's five golds at the Commonwealth Games.
National shooter Martina Lindsay Veloso, 19, first made waves in 2014 as the youngest winner of a World Cup leg at age 14. Last year, she won two of Singapore's five golds at the Commonwealth Games.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Shooter shows growing maturity and cool head to win 2 Commonwealth Games golds

It seems nonsensical to call any 19-year-old an old head and yet that is exactly what Martina Lindsay Veloso is.

The Singapore shooter is still nine months away from turning 20 and does not even have a driver's licence, but she has been one of the more recognisable faces in her sport for almost five years.

Since first making waves in 2014 as the youngest winner of a World Cup leg at age 14, she has racked up accolade after accolade on the regional and international stage.

Last year, she added another illustrious feather to her cap. She won two golds at the Commonwealth Games - in the 10m air rifle and 50m rifle prone - to be the top Singapore athlete on the Gold Coast.

To properly digest the scale of her achievement, consider this: The average age of the last four winners of the 50m event is 40.25. Veloso is not even half of that.

Then again, she insists: "To me, age is not a factor in shooting.

"You can do well regardless of age, height, size or whatever, and it's really quite unique in that way.

A MATURING ATHLETE

Over the last four years, she has developed the maturity and ability to manage the expectations and pressure in competition.

JEANINE HENG, high performance manager at the Singapore Shooting Association on Veloso's growth.

"It's more of a mental test."

That ability, in a sport where margins are so fine that an untimely twitch could mean silver instead of gold, was cited as a key factor for her victories in Australia.

Said Singapore Shooting Association high performance manager Jeanine Heng: "Over the last four years, she has developed the maturity and ability to manage the expectations and pressure in competition."

Veloso's efforts have earned her a nomination for The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award.

Yet, when asked to describe her 2018 in one word, she purses her lips, breaks into a wry smile, and answers: "Bittersweet."

Why?

"I had my moments, of course... Winning the double golds at the Commonwealth Games, finishing in the finals of World Cup (South Korea and Munich legs), where I also set the junior world record for the 50m rifle three-positions event.

"But the bitter part was trying to cope with the expectation and pressure going into the Asian Games and World Championships."

At last August's Asiad, she was sixth in the 10m air rifle and eighth in the 50m rifle three-positions in Indonesia. At the World Championships, where Tokyo 2020 Olympic spots were up for grabs, she was 30th in the 10m and 20th in the 50m in South Korea.

But Singapore's 2015 Sportsgirl of the Year is ready to rebound to reach even greater heights this year.

She will graduate from her sports and wellness diploma course at Nanyang Polytechnic in March, and plans to take a gap year to focus on trying for the Olympics before she pursues a university degree.

Between next month and August, she will compete in World Cup legs in New Delhi, Beijing, Munich and Rio de Janeiro and, in November, the quadrennial Asian Championships in Doha - all of which offer a route to Tokyo.

In December, she will attempt to add to her two SEA Games gold medals in the Philippines.

Now that she no longer has to juggle school commitments with her six-day training regimen, she says with a cheeky grin that she will finally have time to try and earn the right to get behind a wheel.

"I got my diving licence before my driving one," she dead-panned, referring to how she became a licensed open-water diver in Bali last month.

"I've never really been able to shoot full-time so, from April, it's another new experience and another challenge."

Judging by how frequently she has hit the targets she sets - did we mention she is a junior black belt in taekwondo? - it is not too far-fetched to imagine more milestones, and that elusive driver's licence, awaiting Veloso in the not-too-distant future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'It's mind over matter for her'. Print Edition | Subscribe