Gai Bin aims for golden path to Olympics
Shooter Gai Bin hopes a stellar showing at the SEA Games will put his Olympics dream back on track
Like a shooting star, Gai Bin has had flashes of sheer brilliance, but there were also times when he seemed to fade away.
In 2010, he produced a stunning performance at the Commonwealth Games to win three golds, two silvers and two bronzes, and was voted Sportsman of the Year.
However, the 47-year-old shooter struggled to repeat his form in the years that followed.
He delivered two silver medals at the 2013 SEA Games. Last year, he won only a bronze at the Asian Games and drew a blank at the Commonwealth Games.
Surprisingly, Gai Bin, who also coaches students who take up shooting as a Co-Curricular Activity, was scathing in his own assessment when he talked to The New Paper recently.
He said: "I have to admit that after the high of 2010, I have slackened and managed my time poorly, as I have to juggle work and training.
"I have been in this sport and industry for so long. I'm also coaching in schools.
"Ahead of major Games, people would ask me whether I'm competing and expect me to at least win a medal because of what I've accomplished in the past.
"It's depressing whenever I don't do well. But I try to take it all in my stride and continue to work hard.
"In sport, as in life, there are many ups and downs. Who doesn't want his glory days to endure forever?
"But that's not possible. So we can only do our best and be accountable, and not dwell on past glories."
Gai Bin's affinity with shooting came naturally, although his road to the top of the podium was by no means straightforward.
His father was an army officer who owned various firearms, and he would bring the young Gai Bin to shoot pigeons and quails in the woods.
He found the pistol a less cumbersome weapon, so he enrolled in a pistol academy when he was 14.
He did well enough to be called up to the Chinese national team for three years after he turned 17, before going on to run his own shooting club.
He was invited by a private company to coach in Singapore in 2004, and became the national pistols coach a year later, before receiving citizenship in 2007.
In his first SEA Games that year, he delivered a gold medal in the men's 10m air pistol event, before earning a silver and a bronze two years later.
Then came his incredible seven-medal haul at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, before his minor slump.
Spurred by an Olympic dream, Gai Bin hopes to use this SEA Games on home soil to plot his way back to the top as he bids to qualify for Rio 2016.
In fact, on his right arm, he has a tattoo of a pistol discharging a bullet.
He said: "I got the inspiration from mixed martial arts fighters who have plenty of tattoos not just for aesthetics but also to give them extra strength."
The China-born shooter also wants to give Singaporeans reasons for cheer, as he is "very proud and grateful" to call Singapore home.
"I've always had a good impression of Singapore since my schooling days," said Gai Bin, who collects antiques and jade ornaments as a hobby and enjoys a glass of whisky or red wine.
"I still remember learning about Nanyang, which was what Singapore was known in the past, and about how the Chinese came here to work.
"And, of course, Singapore has such a good reputation for being a safe garden city.
"Despite being a coach, I knew I still had the ability to compete. The desire to become an athlete again kept growing. I've always had an Olympic dream, and I think I could accomplish it in Singapore.
"Over the years, I've gradually assimilated into life in Singapore.
"Whenever I stand on the podium with the Singapore flag being raised, I feel a strong identity.
"Singapore is my home and I hope I can continue to contribute through the sport."