PALEMBANG -- Two of the Philippines' top rifle shooters take aim at Asian Games glory as Amparo Acuña and Jayson Valdez compete against the regions' best at the quadrennial meet.
The pair is set to participate in the 10m Air Rifle event as well as the 50m Rifle 3 Positions, which will be held at the Jakabaring Shooting Range in Palembang, Jakarta on Monday.
Now on his second Asiad competition, the 22-year-old Valdez looks to lean on his mental fortitude for his upcoming events.
"My preparations in Manila didn't go as planned," he admitted after his training session at the event's practice venue. "But mentally, I'm strong-willed, my mind is tough."
Valdez is a second generation shooter. His father, Julius, who also happens to be the coach and trainer of the team, is a three-time SEA Games champion. As a child, he was already exposed to the world of competitive shooting. He shifted all his focus to the discipline by age 13, giving up other sports like basketball and taekwondo. Since then, he has competed in numerous international competitions, including a handful of SEA Games and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
"I don't really measure myself in what I can do and what they can do," he said about the upcoming competition. "I'm not really score-conscious. I just do my best, and then the scores will follow.
"I look at them as equals, I don't think 'Oh he's [the best] in Asia or oh he's Southeast.' No. I'm looking forward for the best competition, best shooter," he added.
Competing alongside Valdez and participating in her first Asian Games is Amparo Acuña.
The 21-year-old Acuña is carving her own path in the sport, highlighted by her bronze medal finish for the 50m prone event at the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia.
"I think it helped me as a basis or as an assurance that I'm good enough, that I can compete with good shooters, even in Southeast Asia who are here, who are ranked top in the world," she said about her SEA Games feat. "I was assured that I can compete with them and that I can surpass their skills as well."
Acuña, who only started the sport five years ago, comes from a family of shooters. She is currently balancing her time with training as well as studying as a third-year student at Miriam College. She trains thrice a week, with additional days for running, all while submitting her school requirements.
"What I like about shooting is that we already have a forte on the knowledge about guns as a family and that in shooting, it doesn't matter how old you are, your body type, it's in the psychological balance of everything to be calm, focused, and to be determined," she shared.
Both Acuña and Valdez are highly competitive athletes and remain unfazed against the best shooters Asia has to offer.
"When I stand in that bay, people get to see a different Jayson," Valdez said in Filipino. "Even though they don't notice it and can only look at the scores, the way I stand there in the bay, I transform into a different person."
"Part of my preparation is to remove the stigma of nervousness or even excitement," Acuña pointed out. "So far I'm just neutral like 'Okay, I'm gonna shoot.' Maybe a bit excited but not different from the training excitement in the Philippines."
Acuña and Valdez will kick off their 2018 Asian Games campaign tomorrow in the 10m Air Rifle event.
SOURCE: ESPN.com > tv5.espn.com/story/_/id/24413366/top-ph-rifle-shooters-all-set-see-action-monday