S'pore hotshot Teo's all fired up for Rio

The journey to this year's Olympic Games in Rio began much earlier for national shooter Teo Shun Xie.

It started in the industrial city of Glasgow, at the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in 2014 when she became a Commonwealth Games champion in the 10m air pistol.

That improbable come-from-behind breakthrough - Teo had won a handful of silvers and bronzes at the SEA Games but never struck gold - gave her the belief that she could thrive at the elite level and the Olympians were a tribe she belonged to.

She said: "That was the moment when the Olympics became a realistic goal for me and I had the confidence that I could excel on such a big stage."

The 27-year-old will have that opportunity to compete with the world's best sharpshooters in Brazil after she secured a spot in last month's Asia Olympic qualifying event in New Delhi.

Curiously, she earned the place in the longer 25m category, which is not the SEA Games 10m air pistol gold medallist's pet event.

Besides the distance, size of target and bullets used, both disciplines have telling differences in scoring in a final. The 10m is an elimination-style format, where the lowest scorer after each series bows out.

In the 25m variant, scores for the final eight are calculated differently. Only shooters who hit 10.2 and above (the bull's eye is divided into smaller decimal zones of 10.0 to 10.9) are awarded a point. The top two then face off for gold.

For Teo, a research officer at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), both events appeal to her methodical and rational mind.

"I love the entire process of shooting," she noted. "Everything about it is very challenging but there's so much satisfaction when everything comes together and you make a good shot."

Yet for a while, her good shot was not nearly good enough.

A member of the Republic's national team since she was 18, she initially struggled to make an impression on the international stage.

She returned from the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games empty-handed and never finished inside the top 20 of a World Cup leg.

An individual silver (plus two team silvers and one team bronze) at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar was proof that all the waiting was worth it, she said.

"If not for that medal, I probably would have stopped shooting."

She was a Commonwealth Games champion a year later. That peak was tragically followed by the death of her father, who had been a pillar of support throughout her sporting career and would print out the schedule and list of rival shooters before each competition.

Nevertheless, Teo sought and found solace in her family, friends and team-mates and continued shooting.

The trajectory of her accomplishments, much like the 0.22 calibre live rounds she fires in the 25m event, is on the rise and much of it can be attributed to her relentless quest for perfection.

Mention last month's Olympic qualifying campaign in India and instead of satisfaction, there is discontent at her performance.

Of her 25 shots in the elimination round, she scored only 12 points (hitting 10.2 or higher), a sharp drop from the 17 or 18 normally garnered in training. "To make the gold-medal final, you need to hit around 20 points. So there's still a lot of work left to do," she mused.

The Chinese New Year has offered a rare break from training but Teo returns to the range on Wednesday and her cross-hairs are fixed on Brazil in August.

After all, her place in Rio is not guaranteed.

All she and team-mate Jasmine Ser (50m air rifle three-positions) did in New Delhi last week is earn a spot for Singapore at the Olympics. The slots do not belong to them as individuals.

If any team-mate shows better form heading into the Games, for example by finishing in the top eight at one of the three World Cup legs up to May, the Singapore Shooting Association will consider their candidacy as well.

Nevertheless, Teo is is clearly excited at the prospect of an Olympic debut and fittingly, she references the 2012 London Games as another significant milestone for her outlook in the sport.

It was there, in another British city, that she watched live online as South Korean Kim Jang Mi defeated defending champion Chen Ying of China and snatched the 25m pistol gold at the death.

Therein lay an important lesson for Teo. She said: "Nothing is impossible. Until the final shot, you always have a chance to change the result."


This article was first published on February 08, 2016.
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