SEA Games: Finally, it's Tessa's turn

SEA Games: Finally, it's Tessa's turn
In the Women's 10m Air Rifle Final Singapore's Tessa Neo (back), won her first two SEA Games gold medals.

The idea formed over time, as she watched her cousin's Jasmine Ser trophy cabinet become more crowded with glittering metal over the years.

She spotted Commonwealth Games gold medals and gold from the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, and the 2011 Sportswoman of the Year trophy stood over all of them like a sentry.

"One day, I want to be like her and contribute something for Singapore, too," a young Tessa Neo told herself.

Yesterday, she fulfilled her ambition in emphatic fashion, collecting her first two SEA Games gold medals.

At just 17, the future is certainly bright for Tessa. The SEA Games debutante combined with her illustrious cousin and Martina Veloso to help Singapore win a historic first gold in the women's 10m air rifle team event at the Safra Yishun indoor shooting range.

Later in the afternoon, with family and friends watching on, Tessa stared down both her much more experienced cousin and Martina to win the individual final.

Speaking to The New Paper, the Nanyang Polytechnic student said: "Adrienne (former national shooter and now Singapore Shooting Association council member), Jasmine and I are quite close cousins and, whenever I used to go to Jasmine's house and saw the medals, I was like, 'Wow!'.

"To compete with Jasmine feels great. I didn't feel stressed, and just went for it.

"I want to thank my parents, cousins, and coach Hashemi Elham because they gave me the courage to compete."

In the battle for team honours, the hosts' score of 1233.9 was well ahead of silver medallists Thailand (1222.9), with Malaysia (1219.2) finishing third.

Based on their individual scores, the Singaporean trio qualified for the individual final.

More than 200 spectators crammed into the range, with more turned away after the venue reached maximum capacity, expecting Ser or 2014 World Cup (Munich leg) winner Martina to strike gold.

They were treated to a superb display of consistency as all three Singaporeans occupied the medal spots from start to finish.

And they would have also been surprised by the brilliance of Tessa, who led from pillar to post, pipping Ser for gold comfortably, with their final scores at 207.0 and 204.9, respectively.

Martina's final shot in the penultimate series yielded only 9.7 (out of a maximum of 10.9) and left her in third place (184.0).

However, the 15-year-old had to give up her bronze medal to fourth-placed Nur Ayuni Farhana Abdul Halim of Malaysia because SEA Games diplomatic rules state that one National Olympic Council cannot win more than two medals in an individual event.

Ser performed admirably considering she was battling jet-lag after returning just two days ago after competing in Germany, and also handling a newly-repaired rifle that was damaged in transit.

PRAISES

The 24-year-old, who won the gold in the event at the 2007 Games, spoke glowingly of Tessa: "After she picked up the sport, I knew she would be somebody. She has the ability to repeat good shots consistently, and she doesn't think too much.

"I made a mistake at the end, but I'm so happy we have young aspiring champions like Tessa and Martina in the team.

"To secure a first SEA Games team gold in this event with Tessa and Martina, there's nothing more than I can ask for."

Martina was also gracious despite having to part with her individual medal. The 15-year-old, who is also making her SEA Games debut here, said: "Of course it's hard to give it up because I did finish third.

"But... I'm really excited and it's so cool we finished in the top three and won the team medal.

"Although my SEA Games ends here, I have a team gold medal, and there will be more to come from me in the future."

It was an excellent performance, especially in the final. With her ability, if she participates regularly in international competitions, she will learn more about how to fight and perform in major tournaments, and she can be a world-class shooter. - Tessa Neo's coach Hashemi Elham


This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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