SINGAPORE - What was supposed to be an exciting return to the National School Games turned into worry for Zhang Aiyan, as the air pistol shooter saw her training scores dipping inexplicably a few weeks before the B division girls' competition.
No matter what she tried, the Secondary 4 student from Raffles Girls' School (RGS) was only able to hit scores in the 530s range instead of her usual 547 to 552 points.
The 15-year-old said: "I actually kind of panicked, I was worried that my scores wouldn't be able to recover. It was quite frustrating because no matter what I tried, it was not getting better."
Thankfully for Aiyan, she was able to rediscover her form in time to clinch the gold medal in the girls' 10m air pistol at the Safra Yishun Indoor Air Weapon Range on Thursday (April 7).
Things began looking up for her when her coach, who had been overseas for a competition, returned and changed her approach to training. Instead of shooting one pellet at a time, the teenager began shooting five to 10 pellets at once before looking at where her shots landed.
She said: "When I was shooting shot by shot, I actually got very frustrated when I saw the shot not hitting 10s or just hitting nines."
But on Thursday, Aiyan put the frustration of the past few weeks behind her as she shot a 556 with 13 inner-10s, pipping Singapore Sports Schools' (SSP) Clarice Lee to the gold by a point.
National Junior College's Kulandaivel Udayar Senthilkumar Lakshayaa was third with 542 points.
Aiyan said: "I feel quite happy because today my performance is actually better than usual in training, I'm quite surprised by my scores today. I wasn't really aiming for any title - my goal was to do the best that I can do."
While SSP's Clarice was disappointed after narrowly missing out on the gold medal, there were still some aspects of her performance that she was pleased with.
The Secondary 3 student said: "I am grateful that I was able to win silver, but I was also disappointed that I missed gold by one point. Overall, I'm still very happy with my results.
"Honestly I'm not very satisfied with my performance today as I felt very lost during the first three series, but I managed to pick myself up and regain my confidence to continue for the rest of the shots."
SSP's bid for a clean sweep of four team golds fell short on Thursday as the air pistol team title went to Xinmin Secondary School, who scored 1602 to finish ahead of RGS (1597) and Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School (1578).
Xinmin's Lim Wei Xin, who finished fourth in the individual event, credited their performance to the extra hours in the training range.
To prepare for the NSG, they trained five times a week instead of the usual three, putting in an extra hour each session.
While it was tiring at times, the Secondary 3 student said she and her teammates would talk and encourage one another.
Wei Xin, 14, said: "Although all of us were very nervous for our shots and scores, we did our best to keep calm and focus on every shot and everything turned out well. I'm proud of my teammates and everyone who participated."