Fast-improver Ser an Olympic medal prospect, says coach Ivanov
Coach Ivanov says he's never seen someone improve as fast as the S'porean shooter
Air rifle coach Kirill Ivanov has seen many good shooters in the 50m rifle three-positions (3P) event in his time as an athlete and a coach.
After all, the 55-year-old Russian is a former world champion and a bronze medallist in the 1988 Olympics in the same event.
He was also once the chief rifle coach for the Russian national team.
So, when Ivanov says he has never seen a shooter progress in the event as quickly as Jasmine Ser, one takes notice of the talent in his pupil.
Speaking to The New Paper at the Safra Yishun air weapons range yesterday, Ivanov, who has been coaching Ser since 2011, said: "Of course I am happy, her progress is one of the fastest in the world (in the 50m event)... and she is ready to fight (in the Olympics."
Ser, 25, a National University of Singapore graduate, and teammate and pistol specialist Teo Shun Xie, clinched Olympic spots at the Asia Olympic qualifying competition in New Delhi last month.
Ser won the women's 50m 3P event, while Teo finished sixth in the women's 25m pistol event.
Before the pair, Lee Wung Yew was the only Singapore shooter to qualify for the Olympics, in Beijing in 2008.
Ser, previously known to excel in the 10m air rifle event, picked up the 3P event only in 2010.
She blossomed under Ivanov's guidance, despite having to split her time between her studies, Safra Yishun and the National Shooting Centre (NSC) at Choa Chu Kang.
This went on until she graduated in 2014.
When in Singapore, she trains for the 10m event at the indoor range at Yishun and the 3P event at the outdoor range at the NSC.
She started late in the discipline, but Ivanov believes his protege is now as good in both the 10m and the 3P events in terms of technique, and he actually thinks she is more confident in the latter event.
"Last September she was 12th (in the 3P world ranking, her best-ever position). I think we can go better, she is ready to go higher," said Ivanov.
Asked if Ser, currently 15th in the world, could break into the top 10 this year, Ivanov said: "Maybe even higher, we will find out. This is sport, sometimes you have a bit more luck, and other times a bit less.
"But you cannot hope on luck; we should hope that our work, our technique (will bring us forward).
"Anyone in the top 20 can win an Olympic medal."
With about six months till the Rio Olympics, Ivanov says Ser has to improve on her competition tactics as she bids to land a historic medal in Brazil.
He said: "In India, she was starting to go the right way in terms of tactics, but it is only the first step.
"Otherwise, her technique, mental training and psychological training are good enough, and she is a hard worker.
"We train enough and it is not necessary to increase (training) at this time. Now, we should be preparing for the four World Cups."
Coach and shooter will go for the four World Cups - Bangkok next month, Brazil in April, Munich in May and Azerbaijan in June - with the Rio competition especially crucial for Ser to familiarise herself with the range that will be used for the Olympics.
As the South American nation tries to cope with the Zika virus, Ivanov believes they would still travel to Rio for the World Cup event in April.
He said: "We should go, because it is important to know the Olympic shooting range, unless they close the range or stop the competition. We can bring our own food and water."
Going for broke helped Teo qualify for Rio
Things weren't going too well for shooter Teo Shun Xie the day before the women's 25m pistol competition at the Asia Olympic qualifying event in New Delhi last month.
The 27-year-old research officer had fared poorly in practice and was down, 24 hours before her final opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, according to her coach Zhen Ting Ling.
The next day, just before her shoot, Zhen told Teo to be quicker in taking her shots during the precision segment and just go for broke.
Teo finished the qualification round in third place and eventually ended up sixth in the final with 581 points, earning Singapore a place in the event at the Olympics in August.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Zhen, a former shooter from China's Xinjiang region, said: "Since the precision portion was already bad in training, why not take a risk and try something new?
"So I told her not to take too long to aim."
What made the feat remarkable was that after the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait last November, Teo had stopped training for "more than 40 days as she needed to catch up with work", according to Zhen.
At the same time, Teo's previous coach Dina Aspandiyarova had left the team last month, and Zhen - who coaches the national youth team - was asked to step in.
While rusty at the beginning, Zhen said Teo worked well with him.
She worked hard to make a breakthrough for Singapore shooting.
Other than Lee Wung Yew in 2008, Teo and Jasmine Ser are the only Singapore shooters to qualify for the Olympics.
But Zhen, who is temporarily coaching the national pistol team, is realistic about how far Teo can go in Rio.
He said: "Most of our shooters are amateurs - they have to work or study and train at the same time. (Teo) trains for about two hours, three times a week.
"Professional shooters train eight hours a day, and that is the equivalent of one-and-a-half weeks of training for some of our shooters.
"But, because of the way the competition rules are now, she stands a slim chance of making the final, but it all depends on how the shooters perform on the day of competition.
"However, what she and Jasmine have done will no doubt inspire a whole generation of young Singapore shooters to dare to dream about the Olympics."
- LIM SAY HENG