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2 PH shooters out to spring surprises

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Two young shooters are hoping to end the country’s eight-year gold medal drought in the Southeast Asian Games.

Jayson Valdez, 21, and Amparo Acuña, 19, are tipped to contend for medals in their respective events when the biennial Games are held in August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“They are our best bets in shooting,” said Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, the last Filipino shooter to win gold in 2009.

Both Valdez and Acuna are products of the National Youth Development Program (NYDP) launched by Padilla in 2008.

They are actually the only remnants of the program that was discontinued in 2012 following a change in leadership in the shooting association.

“The first time I saw them, I knew they would go far. Jayson had the build to become a good rifle shooter while I saw in Amparo the determination to succeed,” Padilla said.

Last week, Valdez and Acuña each won gold in the 41stSoutheast Asia shooting championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Valdez, son of 10-time SEAG champion Julius, topped the 50-meter rifle 3-position with 448.1 points, edging a pair of Vietnamese. He also took a bronze in the men’s 50-meter rifle prone.

Acuña, on the other hand, captured the gold in the women’s 50-meter rifle prone with 591 points, just a point ahead of silver medalist Thu Thu Kyaw of Myanmar. She also had two bronzes.

Both Valdez and Acuña are coached by Julius Valdez who won three gold medals in the 1987 SEA Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

They train regularly at the Marines shooting range.

A retired master sergeant of the Philippine Marines, Julius said his son’s success would have not been possible without the continued support of Padilla.

“Hanggang ngayon, patuloy ang tulong at suporta ni Tac,” said Julius who added that it was Padilla who convinced Jayson to try shooting.

“Taekwondo dati ang anak ko. Blackbelter yan, pero sabi ni Tac mas malaki ang tsansa niya sa shooting,” Julius said.

Jayson, at 13, became the youngest shooter to compete in the Asian Games in 2008. He won the bronze in the men’s 10-meter air rifle event.

A fresh graduate of Adamson where he took up custom administration, Jayson now has plenty of time to train for the Games.

Jayson said he trains up to six hours on weekdays and the whole day on weekends.

“Hanggang maubos ang bala,” he grinned.

Amparo, on the other hand, trains in the morning because of her classes at Miriam College.