PETALING JAYA: An astounding 40 gold medals are up for grabs in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games shooting competitions but it will be a tall order for the Malaysian shooters to get even one of them.
The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) are expecting the team to deliver one gold medal in either the rifle or pistol events.
But the National Shooting Association of Malaysia (NSAM), well aware of the strength of the Australians and Indians, have played down their chances. They are offering a modest target of three medals of the other colours.
The NSAM secretary, Jasni Shaari, in defending their trimmed down chances, said that it was pointless to set high targets unless the shooters were able to produce the consistency required.
If the shooters can perform consistently whenever they compete, we can be more optimistic about our chances of winning a gold medal, said Jasni.
Being able to adjust quickly to the conditions will also be crucial, especially in the outdoor events.
Jasni pointed to rifle shooter Mohd Hameleay Abdul Mutalib as an example.
Hameleay shot down his first national mark to win the 50m rifle prone event in the Ally T.H. Ong Trophy Championships last week.
Hameleay is one of our best men's rifle shooters but this was his best score. If he can produce this score in Melbourne, it should get him into the final and probably earn a medal. But the question is whether he can achieve the consistency, said Jasni.
For the shooters, especially the five in the 2006 AsiaComm elite squad, there is certainly pressure on them to do well.
The five Hameleay, Hasli Izwan Amir Hasan, Bibiana Ng, Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi and Nurul Hudda Baharin should be aiming to justify their inclusion in the elite team by at least reaching the finals in their respective events.
Such is the pressure on the seniors to perform that they have been stopped from talking to the media on their chances in Melbourne.
The Malaysian team will not just require steady hands and calm nerves in the bid to win medals but they will need a bit of luck as well to succeed.
The crack Indian and Australian marksmen indicated that they are out to stamp their supremacy in the Games at the Commonwealth Championships in Auckland last December.
Australia bagged a total of 21 gold medals and India claimed 11.
However, Jasni is confident that the Malaysian shooters would be in the fight for medals in the women's 50m rifle and men's rapid fire competitions.
Hasli will carry Malaysia's hopes in the individual rapid fire event and a medal is within his reach, considering the fact that he has consistently bettered his personal best mark over the last few months.
Nur Suryani and Nurul Hudda will be relied on to strike in the women's rifle competition. Nur Suryani, the Manila SEA Games gold medallist, is down to compete in all three events 10m air rifle, 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle three-position.
Nurul, the 1998 Kuala Lumpur gold medallist in the 10m air rifle event, is struggling to reproduce her previous form and will only compete in the 50m rifle three-position. Suryani and Nurul will be together for the pairs events and the team will be counting on their experience to create a surprise.
On top women's pistol shooter Bibiana's chances, Jasni said that she was expected to be among the contenders for medals in the individual events.
The inclusion of Ishvari Jahnava Devi Desi, formerly known as Irina Maharani, would strengthened Malaysia's chances of winning a medal in the women's pistol pairs events.
Bibiana and Ishvari took the silver medal in the women's sport pistol event in Manchester four years ago.
Joseline Cheah will be Bibiana's partner this time and it will be hard for them. Joseline is still young and she is not consistent yet in shooting high scores, said Jasni.
Malaysia will also be represented in all three disciplines of clay shooting trap, skeet and double trap.
For the clay shooters, who train on their own, making the top six final will be an achievement.