Commonwealth Games 2018: Gold Coast, April 4-15

'Last-shot girl' is first again

Left: Martina Veloso celebrating with her 10m air rifle gold medal yesterday. She won a single-shot shoot-off against India's Mehuli Ghosh after the duo finished tied first on 247.2 points. Below: Tessa Neo trying to fix her rifle in the midst of the
Martina Veloso celebrating with her 10m air rifle gold medal yesterday. She won a single-shot shoot-off against India's Mehuli Ghosh after the duo finished tied first on 247.2 points. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Left: Martina Veloso celebrating with her 10m air rifle gold medal yesterday. She won a single-shot shoot-off against India's Mehuli Ghosh after the duo finished tied first on 247.2 points. Below: Tessa Neo trying to fix her rifle in the midst of the
Tessa Neo trying to fix her rifle in the midst of the competition. Her rifle's rear sight was damaged when it was dropped accidentally after the qualifying round.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Left: Martina Veloso celebrating with her 10m air rifle gold medal yesterday. She won a single-shot shoot-off against India's Mehuli Ghosh after the duo finished tied first on 247.2 points. Below: Tessa Neo trying to fix her rifle in the midst of the

Veloso repeats late heroics to win S'pore's 1st gold as team-mate Neo rues damaged rifle

One pumped her fist and smiled, the other wept quietly. On the faces of the two Singaporean shooters in yesterday's women's 10m air rifle final were written the two stories of sport - triumph for one of her own making, tragedy for the other through an unfortunate accident.

Martina Veloso and Tessa Neo had progressed to the eight-woman final confident of winning the Commonwealth Games gold. Neo qualified in second with a score of 417.2, Veloso fourth on 414.3.

But while Veloso's aim was true from the start - of her 25 shots, her lowest was 9.3, one of only four sub-10 shots - Neo's was sadly imprecise through no fault of her own.

Veloso finished tied first with Mehuli Ghosh on 247.2 points, a new Games record, before clinching the gold in a dramatic single-shot shoot-off. The 17-year-old Indian's nerves faltered and she hit 9.9. Veloso, a year older, shot 10.3.

Not only was it Singapore's first gold at the Gold Coast Games, but it was also a case of deja vu for Veloso, who last year won the SEA Games gold in this event with her final shot to beat team-mate Jasmine Ser.

Veloso laughed and said: "I think I'm the last-shot girl."

Fortune smiled on her but luck had deserted Neo. Her rifle's rear sight was damaged when her coach Kirill Ivanov accidentally dropped the gun while helping to pack her equipment after the qualifying round and the problem was discovered only during the final.

She missed the target on her first shot - practically unheard of for elite shooters - and then shot 2.2, 5.4, 6.7, 5.9, 6.9, 0, 7.4, 5.1, 4.6, 6.1, 7.0 while sobbing intermittently.

Singapore shooter Martina Veloso was right on target yesterday in the women's 10m air rifle event at the Commonwealth Games, and the 18-year-old shot her way to Singapore's first gold medal in the Games on Australia's Gold Coast. Meanwhile, the Singa
Veloso shoots her way to first gold for Singapore: Singapore shooter Martina Veloso was right on target yesterday in the women's 10m air rifle event at the Commonwealth Games, and the 18-year-old shot her way to Singapore's first gold medal in the Games on Australia's Gold Coast. Meanwhile, the Singapore men's table tennis team did not fare so well, losing 0-3 to England in the bronze-medal tie. It was the first time the Republic had failed to win a medal in this event since the sport was introduced at the Games in 2002. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Unsurprisingly, Neo, 20, who was the 2015 SEA Games 10m air rifle champion, was the first to be eliminated with a score of 57.3. This was her sole event in Australia.

Ivanov said: "She's upset. We both are. It's a very unfortunate accident to happen to a young shooter."

Mehuli trailed Veloso by 0.5 point heading into the 24th and final regulation shot when the Singaporean shot 10.4 to seemingly secure the title. Needing to hit a perfect 10.9, which no one had managed in the final, the Indian did just that.

It left her tied with Veloso but she miscalculated and thought she had won, celebrating with a fist pump. The lapse in concentration cost her.

Veloso said: "After she shot the 10.9, I looked at the screen straight away and both first and second place had red lines, which means there's a shoot-off. She was in front of me and she thought it was over. I was like, okay just do my own thing and not be too bothered by it.

"It gave me more time to cool down because it's not over yet. I'm just glad I took that time to relax and gave my best for the last shot.

"At this high level, it's probably the best I've shot in a competition."

India's defending champion Apurvi Chandela (225.3) was third.

One of Veloso's strengths is her ability to regain concentration and retain a positive mindset, said her coach Hashemi Elham, who added: "It was not an easy final to win but she showed a lot of maturity."

Veloso was brilliant from the start of the final. She was second after the first round of five shots and took the lead after the second round, a position she never relinquished.

"It's my second Commonwealth Games so I've got more experience," said Veloso, who was fifth in this event at the 2014 Glasgow Games. "The final was very intense. I told myself for each shot I had loads of time and I shouldn't stress myself because that's not helping."

Veloso, who will compete in the 50m rifle three-positions and 50m rifle prone events, sympathised with Neo and said: "Anything can happen in this sport... I knew she was having some issues but I just focused on what I needed to do."

Such was her focus that she was not even aware she had clinched the gold until she looked at the monitor.

"I saw my name on top on the screen and, when I looked back, the Singapore team were cheering," she said.

"So I knew I was the champion."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline ''Last-shot girl' is first again'. Print Edition | Subscribe