Asian Games: Contrasting tales for Singapore on final day at the range

It isn't often that spectators get to gaze into the face of a shooter, never in the moments that actually count.

Backs turned to the world, they disappear into their own headspace, craving calm as they aim at the little black dot in front of them.

Emotionless.

Yesterday at the Ongnyeon International Shooting Range, it was anything but, as Gai Bin bagged a bronze on the final day of the shooting competition at the Asian Games.

Turning away from her target at the end of the qualifiers of the Games' women's 50m three-position, Jasmine Ser managed a smile - just a little one.

Her score of 590 saw her set a new Games record, and join three other women in sharing the Asian mark.

That was just the start of the day.

As Ser disappeared behind the scenes, to forget her score and focus on the final in the afternoon, the temperature started to rise.

One floor up, at the 25m range, Gai Bin had already fired all his shots in the men's 25m centre-fire, but the competition was far from over.

South Korea's Kim Young Min had experienced equipment malfunction, and as per the rules of the sport, was given another shot at the targets.

Standing with the spectators, his eyes flitting from Kim on the right, then to the scoreboard at the far left of the range, this was a different Gai.

The zen mask of calm fell away, revealing the mortal within, all raw nerves and thumping heart. At the time, his name occupied third spot, and Kim - the only shooter left at the firing line - was fast catching up.

"I was worried," Gai admitted later.

"I saw him in training and he's very experienced, and has got good technique... and with everyone watching him, he was doing very well.

"It was intense."

Decked in the kit of the Korean team, a man standing behind Gai suddenly sprang up from his seat, threw his hand up in the air and let out a loud groan of agony.

It was literally a hair's breadth that decided the competition.

Needing 10 points to pip Gai to bronze, Kim shot a nine.

Gai's 584 score was enough to see him across the line, and he finished just one point behind China's Jin Yongde and Qatari Oleg Engachev, who both chalked up 585 points to top the rankings.

In the end, it was the Qatari who took gold after winning the shoot-off.

"My hand was shaking at my last few shots... and I shot two nines. If I had controlled better, I could've won gold," rued Gai.

Ser had much to rue as well.

Her qualifying mark was seven points ahead of her nearest challenger, but with scores reset ahead of the final, she had to start afresh -and it was cruel.

UNCOMFORTABLE

While seemingly comfortable with one knee on the ground, Ser never seemed to find that sweet spot in the prone position, shifting ever so often.

Four shots in the nines saw her drop to fourth, and a poor changeover into the standing position saw her hit an eight with her first shot.

The spectators groaned.

Still fidgeting between shots, Ser hit two more shots in the eights, and from gold-medal favourite just over an hour earlier, she was now eliminated.

She ended in sixth place with a 411.3 score, behind the top three - Kazakhstan's Olga Dovgun (456.4), South Korean Jeong Mi Ra (455.5) and Chinese shooter Chang Jing (446.2), all of whom she had nonchalantly brushed aside earlier in the day.

"The new final format is very difficult, but I just have to get used to it," said Ser later.

"Of course, I'm a little disappointed, but that's how sports is.

"I have to improve on my skills in the final... but I'm happy to have broken the Asian record," she added, a smile returning to her face.

"But I'm tired, and looking ahead to a short break - but just a short break."


This article was first published on September 27, 2014.
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