Arms akimbo, commando 2nd Warrant Officer Poh Lip Meng stood outside the armoury of Incheon's Ongnyeon International Shooting Range yesterday, counting down to the impending departure of the bus parked next to him.
In the uniform of the Singapore shooting team, shouting across at Lim Swee Hon, it was not hard to imagine Poh in army fatigues, although he may not have been wearing that broad, broad smile. And understandably so.
The Republic's 25m standard pistol team had just won a bronze medal at the Asian Games, and the right to put their names into the record books.
They became the first men to win a medal in a pistol event in the 63-year history of the Republic's participation in the Asian Games.
The team of Lim, Poh and Gai Bin shot a 1,692 to finish behind gold-medallists China (1,710) and second-placed South Korea (1,707).
Veteran Gai led the Singapore outfit. His score of 567 saw him finish eighth in the 32-man field, with Lim in 11th (563), a point and a rung ahead of Poh.
"This is the first time in history, a breakthrough for us, an achievement," said Poh.
"Everybody was expecting men's shooting to win something, but we didn't win anything at the Commonwealth Games. Now it's like we're paying back (what we owe)."
Singapore's shooters won a total of 14 medals (36 events in total) at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, five of them gold.
The men won three of the golds and nine medals in all in India, but returned from this year's Glasgow Games - where a reduced schedule saw only 19 events - empty-handed.
"It's a relief - finally shooting can contribute to Singapore's medal tally," sighed Lim, who had to endure a pistol malfunction during the competition.
"We always think that we're capable, but we had not delivered. And yes, it felt like we needed to prove ourselves - and I guess today was the day.
"We've got a good bunch of young shooters, and I hope this can inspire them to work harder."
While Lim and Poh were relieved to get the monkey off their backs, Gai rued what might have been.
"The two of them did very well, but I didn't do that great. If not, we could've won silver or even gold," said the 46-year-old, even though he finished highest among the trio.
"I'm especially happy because winning a team medal is not easy - you can't do it yourself."
Work towards this medal was long in the making, with the threesome making it a point to train together at the weekends.
"Training together makes a difference," insisted Poh, despite the sport essentially being individual in nature.
"The competitive environment of having people around you, and the other distractions (that come along with that), helped us prepare."
The men take to the range today again for the 25m centre fire event, but it will be a tougher climb to the podium this time.
"We will try hard, but the next event will be difficult, because the best in this discipline are in Asia - China, South Korea, Vietnam, and India - and they are full-time shooters too," he said.
"To beat them will be hard."
The lads will fall back on their spirit and unity to fuel their shot at glory.
"We're like three brothers - the total of our ages added together is more than 100," said Gai, who will hope that their scores today will add up to yet another medal for Singapore.
This article was first published on September 26, 2014.
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