Shooter Jasmine Ser's search for perfection

Shooter Jasmine Ser's search for perfection
To Singapore shooter Jasmine Ser, winning a medal in a competition without the score to match is not the same thing. It is victory imperfect and unsatisfying. She admits, without fuss or drama, that the hardest thing for her is 'to be satisfied'.

SINGAPORE - In July this year, in the Russian city of Kazan, Jasmine Ser put her Singaporean eye to a gun-sight, balanced her frame, collected her focus, breathed out gently and put a bullet through history.

Her 587/600 in the 50m three-position rifle at the World University Games broke the event record. This was in the qualification; in the final, she finished eighth. In the same month, at a World Cup in Granada, she finished seventh. From a nation with a slight sporting history and in a sport with 54 women competing with her at the World Cup, all this was worth praise.

Except from Ser herself, who is short in height and pithy in her use of vocabulary. "OK" is her word for her performance. "I am of course happy that I set the record. But I didn't win a medal, I just got to a final. So I am not entirely satisfied."

Then she looks away, pauses, picks a thought from the hundreds littering her brain, and says generally about the idea of victory: "Even if I win I may not be satisfied."

It might sound like a confusing answer but then this is a strange species. For folk whose reputation is based on accuracy, nothing is straightforward with shooters. They are the academics of the physical world, its introspecting professors, who rarely stand out even as they stand completely still.

But Ser has a subtle point about satisfaction that can get overlooked in the chase for trophies. "I am chasing a performance (i.e. score) that can win me a medal," she says. But sometimes, she says, you can win the medal without that score and it is not the same thing. It is victory imperfect and unsatisfying.

And so she says, without fuss or drama, "the hardest thing for me is to be satisfied". Satisfaction for this winner of four medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games is a sin, it hints of complacency, it suggests smugness, it is dangerous. Strive, strive, strive is the uncontrollable war cry in her head.

This heightened search for perfection is an unsettling endeavour that can push an athlete towards superstition, depression, neurosis. But the search for perfection is also a privilege - it's a chance to push the limits of human excellence - it makes sport meaningful, it fulfils athletes and triggers improvement.

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