Shooting: SEA Games newcomers aiming to maintain their focus

Four Singapore shooters - (from left) Lim Yee Xien, Phaedra Tan Yee Joo, Sng Jian Hui and Mohd Irwan - will each make their SEA Games debut next month.
Four Singapore shooters - (from left) Lim Yee Xien, Phaedra Tan Yee Joo, Sng Jian Hui and Mohd Irwan - will each make their SEA Games debut next month.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

As national shooter Sng Jian Hui took aim after his first 30 shots of the round, a line from a Japanese song made its way, unbidden, into his head.

"(A part of a song) pops in and out now and then, so it gets quite hard to focus," said the 19-year-old, explaining that his problem does not lie in clearing his head before a competition, but rather in ensuring that his mind continues to remain clear.

"I empty (my mind) at first, but halfway through the competition, (the distractions) just pop back in."

Coping with such mental diversions during competition is a challenge for the teenager and his fellow SEA Games newcomers.

Mohd Irwan agreed with his team-mate at a media session yesterday at Safra Yishun.

"(The challenge) is in dealing with all these expectations around us and being able to put them aside when we should and focus on our shot," said the 17-year-old.

The duo, who will feature in the men's 10m air rifle event at the Aug 19-30 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, are two of four national shooters making their debut at the biennial event.

The other two are Lim Yee Xien, 20, and 18-year-old Phaedra Tan.

Lim, who will shoot in the women's 50m rifle prone event, spoke of the perils of over-thinking.

"At the core of it, it's about trusting myself," she said.

Tan, who is set to feature in the women's 10m air pistol event, added: "During the competition there are so many distractions and sometimes when you see the scores updating, you're thinking, 'do I have a chance?'

"These distractions divert my attention from executing my technique and I end up aiming for the win. In those situations, I end up putting pressure on myself and I usually don't do well when that happens."

The quartet can count on the guidance of their more experienced team-mates at the Games, including Jasmine Ser and Gai Bin, who each have five SEA Games appearances under their belts.

Asked about her advice to the four first-timers, two-time Olympian Ser smiled, before replying: "Enjoy the Games, take it easy."

Reflecting on her first SEA Games experience in 2007, the 26-year-old said: "To be honest, it wasn't difficult because it was a new experience, so I went there feeling young and fresh and I enjoyed the experience."

Gai, who said that next month's SEA Games will also be his first as "I treat every SEA Games like it's my first time", believes there will always be pressure, whether athletes are Games veterans or debutants.

"You'll just have to take it positively and do your best to give a good performance," added the 49-year-old.

Singapore won five shooting gold medals at the 2015 SEA Games here, three of which came from team events (men's 50m pistol, men's trap and women's 10m air rifle).

With team events culled from the Kuala Lumpur Games, Singapore Shooting Association's high performance manager Jeanine Heng expects the Republic's gold medal haul to decrease. She told The Straits Times that they hope to win two gold medals.

Explaining that experienced athletes and newcomers each have a different advantage during competitions, she added: "Because it's your first Games, you just go and shoot your best because you're the underdog and not much pressure is on you. I think (reaching the) finals will not be a problem for all of them but as for medal chances, the more experienced ones will have an advantage for sure."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline 'SEA Games newcomers aiming to maintain their focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe