Despite 10 debutants, shooters aim boldly for six golds
SSA makes bold prediction despite having 10 debutants in 29-member squad
Even with as many as 10 debutants in their team, the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) has set a bold target of six gold medals from 26 events.
At a media briefing at the National Shooting Centre, SSA vice-president and high performance chief Soo Kwok Seng revealed that there are also nine shooters in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games squad who are under 23.
This represents a healthy mix of seasoned campaigners, such as 47-year-old pistol hotshot Gai Bin, and up-and-coming stars such as 16-year-old rifle expert Martina Veloso, who already has an ISSF World Cup (Germany) title under her belt.
Another young gun, 18-year-old Tessa Neo, holds the national record for the 10m air rifle women's event with a score of 419.5 set last year.
Soo said: "We hope that we can win about six gold medals. That would be more than the last SEA Games, and more than what other countries win on average, given there are 26 events.
"Every shooter we send out must compete for gold. Be it in his or her individual events or in the team events, he or she must try to contribute.
"We have some young shooters and some are capable of giving us a pleasant surprise. This is the effort of the association over the last five years.
"Athletes will grow old one day. Youth is the future of any sport. We expect them to deliver. Nobody is going to a major Games just for experience."
The shooters achieved their best SEA Games haul in Korat in 2007, when they took home eight golds, six silvers and six bronzes.
While they also did well in Vientiane in 2009 with six golds, five silvers and four bronzes, they have been unable to replicate their sterling form since, with just a combined total of two golds, five silvers and three bronzes in 2011 and 2013.
Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have also improved by leaps and bounds.
However, Singapore's shooters will have home-ground advantage this year, as they have been training at the Games shooting venues at the National Shooting Centre and Safra Yishun.
Also, in addition to the usual pistol, rifle, trap and skeet events, the SSA has introduced the precision pistol competition, which is not an Olympic event, but has swiftly gained popularity round the world in recent years (see S14).
This new event offers four gold medals and Team Singapore intend to profit from that.
While Soo acknowledged all these positives, he also backed his shooters to make use of the SEA Games to shoot for the Olympics.
He said: "In every sport, the pinnacle of an athlete's career is to take part in an Olympics.
"The SEA Games is a stepping stone, a preparation for upcoming major international meets where we aim to get the quota for next year's Olympics."