Rachel Shing Ho-ching really gets a kick out of shooting things, be it with a camera – or with a gun.
The 24-year-old is both a photography and graphic design student at Savannah College of Art and Design, and Hong Kong’s top-ranked air pistol shooter, having broken both the Hong Kong and South East Asia record by scoring 385 points at the 41st South East Asian Shooting Championships last year.
While 15 might seem late to start in a sport that will become your career, this is actually the minimum legal age for firing an air pistol in Hong Kong. As soon as she was able, she signed up – and proved that she was a natural.
“I started shooting because my brother was already active in the sport, so I joined him on a summer course hosted by the Hong Kong Shooting Association,” Shing said. She was so impressive in her first session that she was invited to train with the Hong Kong junior team.
She said she loves this relatively niche sport because it “requires a lot of concentration and a determined spirit” – which is ironic, because she describes herself as a chatty girl with a short attention span.
“Sometimes my teachers have to remind me not to get distracted during lessons,” said Shing. “My character is not that of a shooter. But focusing on the sport has helped me become a more serious person, who can always concentrate when shooting. This change in my attitude has helped me do better in my studies.”
She is keen to let people know that the sport is becoming increasingly accessible in Hong Kong, and for more young athletes to get involved. “We now have a very strong training system for the junior team,” she said. “There has been great improvement over time, and the programme continues to grow in strength.”
And while it’s considered a niche sport, shooting is a popular Olympic event. As for Shing, that’s her next big goal, having competed in this year’s Asian Games and International Shooting Sport Federation World Championships.
“My teacher told me to participate in every competition and to enjoy myself, because you never know when your time as a Hong Kong representative can come to an end,” she said.
“So I plan to continue to make shooting my professional career for as long as I can. I plan on competing as a full-time athlete for the next two years, and I look forward to seeing what I can achieve during this period.
“My ultimate goal is representing Hong Kong in the 2020 Olympics, and winning a gold medal,” Shing added.
She also hopes to dispel the notion that the sport is easy, despite it looking like you just pick up a gun and point. “The pistol weighs more than 1kg, so it’s difficult to hold it steady,” she explained.
She added that there is a lot of pressure in events. “One single, tiny problem in a match can cost a medal. But it’s such an exciting sport for that same reason.”
Do you have any pre-match superstitions?
No, I treat every day as a normal day.
If you were to describe yourself as an animal while playing your sport, what would it be?
An eagle. Shooting requires a very high level of concentration and focus. This is just like an eagle when it is hunting; it is calm and determined.
What do you eat before a match?
I make sure I have a full breakfast, because competitions always start in the morning and will run into the afternoon. If you don’t get a full breakfast, you won’t have enough energy and will get hungry in the final.
What is your favourite song/artist to listen to before a match?
Big Bang. I am a super fan.