SEA Games: S'pore teen Tessa takes 10m air rifle title

SEA Games: S'pore teen Tessa takes 10m air rifle title
Tessa (above left) celebrating her victory with her cousin Ser, who is Singapore’s top woman shooter.

She had entered the SEA Games women's 10m air rifle final having qualified only in fifth place. Ahead were her more illustrious team-mates: one an Olympian, the other a winner in the World Cup Series competition.

But if anyone had overlooked Games debutante Tessa Neo, no one will ignore her after her gold-medal feat at the Safra Yishun range yesterday.

The 17-year-old Singaporean won the event's individual gold medal with a nerveless performance, leading all the way in the final and shooting a stunning 10.8 with her final shot to clinch gold on 207.0 points.

She defeated 2007 gold medallist, first-placed qualifier and Olympian teammate Jasmine Ser, who took the silver with 204.9. The bronze went to Malaysian Nur Ayuni Farhana, who scored 160.7.

Together with Martina Lindsay Veloso, 15, Singapore's first International Sport Shooting Federation World Cup event winner, the trio also romped away with the team gold yesterday morning with a total of 1,233.9 points - ahead of Malaysia (1,222.9) and Thailand (1,219.2).

It was a first team success for Singapore in the event, and veteran Ser was all smiles despite her defeat by Tessa.

"The first thing on my mind today was to secure the gold medal for the team," she said with a big grin.

"I was part of the team in 2007 and wasn't able to win that for them that year. But after so many years, we finally got it. So now, my collection is complete."

While Tessa had won her individual gold with a convincing gap of more than two points in the final, she did not expect to clinch gold on her first attempt.

She added: "Before I even started the qualification round, I told myself to not think about the score, like what my coach says, and just focus on the steps that I'm supposed to do."

Tessa and Ser are, in fact, cousins, and the younger shooter had been inspired to take up the sport by Ser's international feats.

This talent and penchant for gold seems to run in the family, for they both share the same determined, focused demeanour on the range.

"I think it's pretty cool," Tessa said, on battling her cousin so closely in the final.

"There haven't been many opportunities for me to compete with her because she's always flying overseas... this time, with Martina, I think it was a really good opportunity to see how well we could do."

Even though she missed out on another individual gold, Ser had nothing but praise for her teenaged teammates, saying: "I'm really glad that I have these two aspiring young champions (in my team)."

She and Tessa were often the last to shoot in the eight-woman final, where the worst-placed shooter was eliminated starting from the eighth shot.

Nevertheless, both were unruffled, calmly adjusting themselves before firing accurate shots consistently, amid the pressure of intense competition and oblivious to the 250-strong crowd's loud cheers.

A tiny 0.4-point difference separated the final pair in the gold-medal round.

Although Tessa was in the lead, Ser had just pulled off two excellent shots of 10.9 and 10.7.

However, an unexpected 8.7 from Ser in the penultimate shot ended all hopes of closing the gap. But she took responsibility for her mistake in pulling the trigger too soon, refusing to blame the raucous clapping of the home crowd.

While the women proved that they were indeed the team to beat yesterday, the men's team of debutants saw only Royce Chan (138.9) making the final. He finished fifth in the individual event while Thailand's Pongsaton Panyatong (207.9) claimed the gold.

Thailand (1,844.0) also bagged the men's team title.

This article was first published on June 07, 2015.
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