C'wealth Games: Gai hopes to hit the mark again

C'wealth Games: Gai hopes to hit the mark again
Singapore’s Gai Bin, the most successful shooter at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is confident he can recover from a poor run at World Cup events.

Four years ago in New Delhi, whenever Gai Bin pulled the trigger, more often than not, Singapore's national anthem swiftly followed.

Such was his form at the last Commonwealth Games, the three golds, two silvers and two bronzes that he won saw him emerge as the competition's most successful shooter.

But those bull's eyes that he used to hit so easily whenever he lifted a pistol have since dried up.

Since 2011, the Hefei native has finished outside the top 15 of his favoured 10m air pistol and 50m pistol events in all 14 World Cup legs, and also disappointed at the last two SEA Games.

There were no excuses from Gai, who blames himself for setting up his own coaching company with his wife Fan Xiaoping after the Delhi Games.

The 46-year-old son of a soldier said: "Training hours were limited due to the increased workload. It took me quite a while to regain the balance between shooting and work and that has definitely affected my performance."

But Gai is hopeful of finding the mark in Glasgow, even as he readily admits that "having confidence is not sufficient to win the competition".

His cause is not helped by unfavourable weather and technical factors which have seen Singapore shooting team manager Ng Jinghui set a conservative target of "one medal of any colour".

The organisers have excluded team events this year - a blow for the Republic as six of its 14 medals in Delhi came from non-individual events.

Five gold, four silver and five bronze saw Singapore rank only behind powerhouses India and England on the shooting standings.

Overall, shooting accounted for nearly half of the contingent's 31 medals - more than any other sport.

The introduction of a decimal scoring system - top scores are between 10.1 and 10.9 - has also made the competition more open.

Previously, a low 9 or a high 9 were all scored together as a 9.

Neither can competitors carry forward their preliminary results into the final stage.

India are still expected to dominate thanks to a star ensemble that includes Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and five-time Commonwealth gold medallist Vijay Kumar.

Like most teams, Singapore's shooters arrived a week early to acclimatise to the blustery conditions at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre, where the competition fires off today.

SEA Games 25m air pistol champion Nicole Tan, for instance, is wearing two jackets to deal with the incongruous 15 deg C summer.

"It's a bit uncomfortable but you have to do whatever it takes to give yourself the best chance to win," said the SAF infantry officer, 24, who took up the sport competitively after winning several internal competitions in 2012.

"If I keep warm and stay cool, I'm in with a good chance for my first Commonwealth medal."

Tan is tipped as the team's best podium prospect, along with 14-year-old prodigy Martina Lindsay Veloso who last year became the first Singaporean to notch a perfect score of 400 in the women's 10m air rifle before winning a World Cup leg in Munich two months ago.

In the build-up to the Games, the Singapore squad had to train on paper targets as the Singapore National Shooting Centre is being renovated for next year's SEA Games to include the electronic system used at all major events.

As the venue is a two-hour drive from central Glasgow, the team is based in a Dundee hotel, far away from their compatriots in other sports at the athletes' village. They keep themselves entertained by playing pool, watching movies or having massages to stay warm and loose.

With the attention firmly on the younger shooters, one wizened hotshot aims to prove that age is just another target to take down. A determined Gai said: "I have to maintain my focus for the competition and do my best for every single shot. I feel the confidence again to be in top form."

This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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