PETALING JAYA: Shooter Emran Zakaria has discarded his “old faithful” – a wooden-holstered rifle, which he used for competitions since 1997.
The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games silver medallist will be using a new aluminium-holstered rifle in his attempts to win a place in the Athens Olympics during the Asian Championships, which will be held at the Subang Range from Feb 8-18.
Emran, who secured a place in the national team for the Asian meet with a victory in the 50m rifle three-position event of the Selangor Championships last week, started training with the RM12,000 rifle yesterday.
“It is made by the same German manufacturer, Anschutz. The rifle is lighter and more suitable for the Asian body frame and most of the Chinese shooters use this version in competitions,” said Emran.
“It is sad that I have to discard the wood model ... it has become like my second wife. It has served me well and I have shot down medals with it in championships, including two Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Championships and the SEA Games.
“But now I have to keep up with my rivals and changing to a new rifle could be the best option.”
Emran, who started out as an understudy to former top rifle shooter Abdul Mutalib Razak, first donned national colours in 1993.
However, the 29-year-old soldier had a dismal season last year and only managed to win a bronze in the Vietnam SEA Games last month in the 50m rifle three-position event, partnering Mohd Hameleay Abdul Mutalib and Ahmad Anai.
The Asian Championships hand Emran with the chance to make a good start to the year.
The championships with 17 events in the programme offer 30 Olympic places.
“There are two places in each of the three rifle events (10m air rifle, 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle three-position),” said Emran, who will compete in all three events.
It will be his second outing in the Asian Championships and Emran said: “I am targeting a place in the top eight final first.
“If I am in the final, I have a good chance to qualify (for the Olympics) if I can get among the top five or six because most of the top shooters have already qualified from the World Cup or World Championships.”
Emran is eligible for qualification because he has already secured the minimum qualifying score (MQS) needed to bid for a place.
Emran made his Asian Championships debut in Langkawi in 2000.
However, he missed out on making the final, finishing 10th in the rifle three-position event.