Vaz’s vision 2020: Win a medal in Tokyo

Vaz’s vision 2020: Win a medal in Tokyo
Michael Vaz says Jasmine Ser could come back from the Rio Olympics with at least a bronze medal. TODAY file photo
S’pore shooting chief wants athletes to qualify for five spots at 2020 Olympics
Published: 5:33 AM, April 23, 2016

SINGAPORE — For the first time in Singapore shooting’s history, two national athletes will compete at the Olympic Games after Jasmine Ser and Teo Shun Xie qualified for Rio de Janeiro in the women’s 50m three-positions and women’s 25m pistol, respectively.

While delighted with the achievements, Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) president Michael Vaz has set his sights on even more. The shooting chief is aiming for Team Singapore’s shooters to earn five qualification spots at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and finish on the podium in four years’ time.

“We will be competing in two out of 15 events at the Olympics, and I want them to compete in 12 out of 15 events at the 2020 Olympic Games,” said the 61-year-old private equity investment manager in an interview with TODAY.

“We almost qualified for four events this time … so the target is for five quota places in 2020, and these could come from the small bore events, air pistol, and air rifle. I also hope for them to be challenging for more medals as well.”

To reach that target, the SSA plans to convert some of its 3,000-strong pool of air rifle shooters in schools and tertiary institutions to compete in small bore (calibres with a diameter of .32 inches or smaller) events such as the 25m and 50m pistol, and 50m rifle.

However, Vaz stressed that the targets can only be achieved if their plans for two new 10m- and 25m-range shooting ranges at the National Shooting Centre (NSC) come to fruition. In 2014, the national sports association announced that it is planning a new S$6 million, two-storey shooting range at its Old Choa Chu Kang Road headquarters in a bid to transform the venue into a one-stop, integrated location.

Ahead of last year’s SEA Games, a number of upgrades were also fitted into the NSC, including a S$2 million electronic system for the 25m and 50m ranges, and a new finals range for the skeet and trap events. According to Vaz, the new facility will be “one of the best in the world” when it is completed.

However, plans for the proposed ranges have stalled for now.

Earlier this year, the NSC range was closed by Sport Singapore after police seized firearms from the Singapore Gun Club (SGC) and the Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) due to “serious licensing irregularities”.

The SGC said in a circular to members that two out of the 77 firearms confiscated were from its armoury, while SRA told Channel NewsAsia it was conducting internal investigations and cooperating with the authorities. While the national shooters have not been affected, the range remains closed until police investigations are completed.

Despite the challenges, the new facility will be a boon for national athletes such as Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ser — who has had to commute between Old Choa Chu Kang to SAFRA Yishun for training sessions — who is gunning to win the Republic’s first-ever medal in shooting at the Rio Olympics.

Ser, who competed in London 2012 on an unused quota place, is targeting to be a medal contender in Rio, and Vaz is confident that the 25-year-old will deliver.

“If she can hold herself together, Jasmine can come back with at least an Olympic bronze,” he said. “Shun Xie (who won a surprise gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games) has surprised us many times, and she might just surprise us again.”