HANOI - Talk about going out with a bang. Amanda Mak marked her SEA Games debut yesterday in style, winning gold in the women’s 10m air pistol team event alongside Teh Xiu Hong and Teo Shun Xie.
Then came the second surprise. Mak’s first Games is also her last as the 21-year-old announced she will hang up her gun and shooting jacket and quit the sport.
She said: “I made a decision to focus on my studies and work. So this is a very good closing for myself. After 10 years, (this) is a good time to close off this chapter of my life and move on to other things that I enjoy.
“The thought of stopping has been around (for) over a year but I always felt like I couldn’t let go.”
But two months ago, Mak decided it was time. The fourth-year sociology student at Nanyang Technological University, currently an employer engagement intern at German software giant SAP, highlighted the strain of juggling life as a student and athlete.
Part of the national set-up since 2015, Mak trained at least six times a week with 7.30pm-9.30pm and 9am-3pm sessions on weekdays and weekends respectively.
She added that she had decided to retire regardless of the outcome in Vietnam.
Teh, who had also won gold on Wednesday after she clinched the top spot in the women's 25m pistol final, said she and Teo had unsuccessfully tried to coax their teammate into continuing shooting as they saw the potential in her.
Teh added: “We wish her the best for her future endeavours. We’re very happy that we ended on a high note.”
The trio’s combined score of 1,697 was just enough to pip runners-up Vietnam (1,695), with Thailand (1,687) taking third at the Hanoi National Sports Training Centre. It was also Singapore’s first gold medal in this event at the biennial Games.
In the individual 10m air pistol final, Teo and Teh finished fifth and seventh respectively while Mak did not make the final eight.
Mak, who will decide between taking up a Masters in human resource management or full-time work when she graduates next May, said: “We travel a lot (for competitions) and when I was in junior college, I had to miss a lot of exams. It was hard. Since I started working, I’ve found it even harder.
“I still love shooting but I want to explore other things and focus on my career. Studies and work have always taken a back seat because I’ve been focusing on shooting. Now I want to try to do it the other way.”
In the women’s 50m rifle three positions, two-time SEA Games champion Martina Veloso had to settle for the bronze. She scored 435 in the final. Vietnam’s Phi Thanh Thao shot 451.1 to take gold with Thai Ratchadaporn Plengsaengthong (444) second.
Veloso, 22, started the final poorly and appeared to be going home empty-handed but recovered to claim a medal.
She said: “Everything was a struggle. I thought I was not going home with anything at all. I started crying because I didn’t expect to climb back up. I am pleased. It’s one of the hardest finals I have ever shot."
Jasmine Ser was the last Singaporean to win this event in 2009 and 2017. Ser and Lim Yee Xien did not make the finals after finishing 10th and 16th out of 17 in the qualifiers earlier.
The trios' air pistol team gold was Singapore's 45th title secured in the Vietnamese capital, hitting a target The Straits Times had set the contingent before the Games began. It also means Team Singapore have produced at least a third-best away showing at the SEA Games.
At the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, Singapore took home one silver and four bronzes but failed to win a shooting gold for the first time since 1991.