SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Veloso shoots down problems for gold

Martina Veloso (left) competing against fellow Singaporean Jasmine Ser after the 10m air rifle field was whittled down to two. Veloso scored 10.8 with her last shot to win.
Martina Veloso (left) competing against fellow Singaporean Jasmine Ser after the 10m air rifle field was whittled down to two. Veloso scored 10.8 with her last shot to win.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Teenager battles a malfunctioning weapon in qualifying, pips team-mate Ser with final shot

Twenty minutes and 11 shots into yesterday's 10m air rifle qualification round, Martina Veloso's first event at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, she was in a state of mild panic.

There was a knocking sound in her weapon and the shock absorber appeared to be malfunctioning.

As her coach Hashemi Elham scrambled to repair the gun, Veloso spent the next 10 minutes fretting if she had enough time to complete her remaining 29 shots within the allocated hour. With the mechanical problem fixed, the 17-year-old regrouped, and still managed to qualify for the final as the third-best shooter with a score of 412.1, behind team-mate Jasmine Ser (417.7) and Thailand's Nawinda Kasemkiatthai (412.7).

In the elimination-format final, Veloso again held her composure as she overtook the older and more experienced Ser, 26, with her final shot to clinch the gold medal.

Said the jubilant teenager, with multi-coloured highlights in her hair: "It hasn't sunk in yet. I knew Jasmine was leading most of the time and I was content with a silver. Then I saw my name at the top of the screen after my last shot. I'm very, very happy with my result."

It was some finish by Veloso, whose score of 247.7 in the final was a Games record.

Nawinda, 22, was knocked out in the penultimate round, leaving the two Singaporeans to battle for the title, with the scores in Ser's favour. The three-time Commonwealth Games champion led 227.1 to Veloso's 226.2 going into the last two shots.

Ser, whose qualification score was also a Games record, shot 10.5 and 9.7 for 20.2 to finish with 247.3.

QUICK ON THE DRAW

I was so scared during the qualification. (The weapon malfunctioning) has never happened before and (the officials) were not going to give me any extra time... luckily I'm a fast shooter in general.

MARTINA VELOSO, the women's 10m air rifle champion, on the obstacles she had to overcome in the qualification round. She had to shoot 29 shots in 40 minutes.

Veloso's first shot was 10.7. Needing at least 10.5 to win, she hit 10.8 to seal the thrilling victory.

What a morning of drama it had been, she said after the win.

"I was so scared during the qualification. (The weapon malfunctioning) has never happened before and (the officials) were not going to give me any extra time," she added.

"The psychologist helped me to stay calm and luckily I'm a fast shooter in general."

Ser, slow and methodical, is the opposite.

She was so focused on her final shot that she did not notice the official had paused before giving the go ahead to fire. When he did, she was slightly startled and squeezed the trigger.

The 2007 champion and silver medallist in 2011 and 2015 was disappointed but gracious in defeat.

She said Veloso was part of the country's new generation of "young and fearless" shooters and added: "No regrets about the gold. Another Singaporean won, which is great, and to finish first and second shows we have a strong team."

The Republic's depth was in evidence when Tessa Neo, Ser and Veloso finished in the top three of this event at the 2015 Singapore Games.

But, due to a Games regulation, which states that competitors from a single country may not win more than two medals in an individual event, Veloso missed out on a bronze. It went to Malaysia's Nur Ayuni Farhana Abdul Halim.

This time, there was no denying Veloso, who won the team gold with Neo and Ser two years ago, her first individual Games medal.

She said: "I can say I redeemed myself. This shows hard work for past two years has paid off."

VIDEO

Martina Veloso on winning gold: str.sg/4rCk

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Veloso shoots down problems for gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe