By JEREMIAH SEVILLA
Coming off a drastic change in lifestyle, shooter Jayson Valdez is optimistic heading to the Tokyo Olympics 2020 which is set to fire off next month.
Valdez, 25, bared that he missed training for almost nine months last year – the longest layoff in his 10-year shooting career so far – due to the pandemic, but that allowed him to work on his physical fitness as well as his mental fortitude for his initial plan to enter the military and become a part-time shooter.
When he returned to training late last year after shedding weight, the longtime national standout said he felt enormously better.
“Pagbalik ko sobrang naging iba ‘yung pakiramdam ko and then all of sudden, boom, ang ganda talaga agad ng scores ko,” Valdez said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, June 22.
Little did Valdez know that his fitness journey would soon be a crucial factor in his Olympic debut as he unexpectedly became the12th Filipino to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
Just last Saturday, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) awarded him a continental quota berth in the men’s 10-meter air rifle event for surpassing the minimum qualifying score (MQS) of 595, a result of his stint in international tournaments.
The son of three-time SEA Games 1987 gold medalist Julius Valdez said that he is hitting scores of 630 and 631 in training, well within the range of the Olympic record of 630.2 set by 2016 Rio gold winner Niccolò Campriani of Italy.
His personal best is 626 while his international competition high is 620, which he said he tallied a few years back when he was not yet working on his fitness.
Valdez, who will have his preparations going full blast on Thursday after taking a rest from his vaccination, is expecting around 30 competitors in Tokyo, some of them familiar faces, but he’s confident of his chances of getting a medal.
“I’m sure ‘yung mga makakalaban ko sa Olympics sila-sila pa rin ‘yun, but we’ll see dahil more efficient and more focused Jayson na kasi ‘yung dadating na shooter ngayong Olympics na ‘to.”
Valdez said that his first target is to beat his personal record which he believes could assure him a spot in the final eight. And from there, he will definitely shoot for the country’s first Olympic gold.
“(Ang goal ko ay) ma-beat ko lang muna ‘yung personal best ko. I’m sure papasok sa top eight ‘yung personal-best ko na ‘yun.”
“Kapag nakapasok ako sa top eight, maghanda na ‘yung buong Pilipinas,” he added in jest but with a hint of optimism.