PETALING JAYA: Penang teenager Muslifah Zulkifli (pic) is a late starter. But she is fast proving to be an uncut gem in shooting, if her stunning performance in the 10m air rifle event of the President Ally T.H. Ong on Thursday is any indication.
Muslifah, who had only taken up the shooting three years ago, fired a near-perfect score of 399 points to emerge as the runaway winner.
Her performance was certainly the talking point of everyone at the Subang Shooting Range on that afternoon.
After all, it is not every day one gets to see a Malaysian shooter finishing just one point short of the world record. Only four women in the world have ever shot a perfect 400.
The 19-year-old, whose score could have won her a medal in the Asian Championships, is taking everything in her stride.
To hit the bulls-eye 39 times out of 40 times I never expected this, she said. I had expected to do well here but it certainly took me by surprise.
I am happy to have set a national record in the senior and junior category but the more important thing is to be able to maintain my performance, said Muslifah, who will be out to prove that the near-perfect score was no fluke when she takes part in the Sukma (Malaysia Games) next month.
I hope to repeat the performance in Sukma. I want to win the gold and it will be great if I can shoot down a perfect score. No Malaysian has ever done this but I believe it is possible, if one has a calm mind and strong focus.
Her performance is made even more phenomenal, considering that she only gets to train two or three times a week due to her study commitments.
I am studying at the Tun Abdul Razak Institute of Technology in Seberang Prai. Training is quite taxing because I have to take the ferry across to the mainland to train at the Waterfall Shooting Range, said Muslifah, who trains under coaches Zamil Murad and Soon Peng Chin.
Muslifah's love affair with shooting began three years ago during a school excursion trip to an army camp. An army major handed her an M-16 rifle and she was hooked.
At that time, I was a member of the police cadet club and I guess my involvement with shooting took off from there.
I just love handling a rifle. It is the nicest feeling when one knows how to control the direction of the shots, whose late father is a technician while her mother works in a factory.
Zamil, who is also the team manager, said Muslifah's national record was likely to remain for a long time.
It will be hard for any shooter to beat her score. Muslifah has shot 398 in training before and it was not surprising that she produced it in a real competition.
She managed 392 in the Asian Shooting Championships last month.
It was a national junior record but that only put her in fourth place. Now, she has proven herself as a top shooter in the making, added Zamil.
Muslifah said she adores India's Suma Shirur, who won the 10m air rifle event at the Asian Championships last month with a perfect 400.
She is one of the top women shooters in the world. I saw her competing here last month and she was so cool and relaxed. I hope to be like her.
If Muslifah can maintain her performance level, that day is not too far away.