Uncertain about his future, air-rifle shooter Jayson Valdez, who made his national team debut at the young age of 14 at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, recently decided to enlist and was accepted as a new Philippine Army recruit.
“Jayson felt he was getting old since he will be 26 years in September and he wanted to have a stable future. He took the test and applied with the Army. Even before his test results were out, he was taken right away,” his father-coach Julius Valdez said Saturday.
Valdez, a former national team standout himself and Southeast Asian Games gold medalist said his son had been waiting to qualify to Tokyo Olympic Games after competing at the World Cup shooting series and other Olympic qualifying tournaments organized by the International Shooting Sports Federation, the sport’s world governing body, since 2018.
“But my son’s hopes began to fade since the ISSF had made no announcement and the Olympics were drawing near so he decided to enlist. Medyo natagalan siya (He was getting impatient),” he said, adding that his son had already began his Army boot camp at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
But the Army will have to take a backseat as Valdez will heed the call of duty to represent the country in the Tokyo Olympic Games next month after he was informed by the world shooting body last Friday that he had earned a quota place in the men’s individual air rifle event.
A bronze medalist in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, the Filipino marksman will be among the 31 athletes shooting for gold in the event, marking the country’s Olympic return to the sport since Brian Rosario saw action in the 2012 London Olympiad as a wild card entry in the men’s skeet event.
Based on the ISSF Olympic qualifying process, Valdez had to earn MQS or minimum qualifying scores in Olympic qualifying events such as “world championships, World Cups, World Cup finals, continental championships and continental games, or special designated qualifying competitions.”
This had to be accomplished from July 24, 2018 to June 6, 2021, according to the ISSF Olympic qualification system.
The MQS for the air rifle event is 595.0 points, and the shooter surpassed that 6 times over the Olympic qualifying period, starting in 2018 when he placed 17th with a score 618.6 points in the Indonesia Asian Games in August of that year.
Valdez did it again in scoring 613.1 points to place 14th in the Asian Air Gun championships in Kuwait City in November 2018 while he tallied 599.8 points in placing 29th at the Asian championships held in Doha, Qatar the following year.
He garnered scores of 618.8, 614.6 and 620.0 points in finishing Nos. 103, 75 and 69 in the Munich, Rio de Janeiro, and Beijing legs, successively, of the 2019 World Cup series.
While Valdez missed a podium finish at the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games, the elder Valdez said that he and his son went back to training right away at the Philippine Marine shooting range in January 2020 until the country was locked down mid-March to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Hindi naman kami gaanong natigil bumaril, mga two months lang last year dahil sa lockdown,” said the father-coach, who was the country’s most bemedalled shooter at the 1987 Jakarta SEA Games with three golds and one silver.
This year, he added, they trained from January to March at the Marine shooting range inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig city until the National Capital Region was locked down once more due to the escalating number of infections in the metropolis.
“We would go to the shooting range six times a day with Monday serving as Jayson’s rest day,” he said.
The elder Valdez thanked the Philippine Sports Commission for providing the support and ammunition for their training as well as former national shooter Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, who has been a patron of the shooter since he was 13 years old as member of his personal junior development program.
“Tac was delighted when I told him that Jayson qualified for the Olympics. Something that we both never accomplished when we were national shooters,” the coach said. “At least nai-forward ko sa kanya ’yung talent ko. Sabi namin ni Tac si Jayson na ’yung nag-puno ng pangarap naming makapag-Olympics.”
(At least I was able to transfer my talent to him. Tac and I said it was Jayson who was able to fulfill our Olympic dreams.)