Young Chinese shooter aims for Olympics

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Champion shooter Yang Haoran has been training hard for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Still in his early 20s, world champion shooter Yang Haoran is a man of few words. But he is not shy about naming his ambitions to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

That Olympic dream has moved closer to becoming reality for Yang, who won four medals at the recent 13th Chinese National Games in Tianjin.

The 21-year-old from Hebei Province nailed golds in the men's 10m air rifle and the 50m rifle 3 positions, got one silver in the newly introduced 10m air rifle mixed team, and one bronze from the 10m air rifle team event from his second National Games.

Yang is the reigning champion in the men's 10m air rifle, but he has rarely competed in the men's 50m rifle 3 positions event. He set a new national record with 1,189 points in the men's 50m rifle 3 positions qualification round, surpassing the world mark by three points on August 31. The current world record was set by Nazar Louginets of Russia on June 12, 2014 at the ISSF World Cup Rifle & Pistol in Munich.

"I am glad to win my second gold in the 50m rifle 3 positions, especially because I've never won in the event before," said Yang, who scored 460.4 points in the final.

"I feel ashamed, because Yang is not really a shooter familiar with the 50m rifle 3 positions," said Hui Zicheng of the PLA team. Hui finished second in the event.

It seems Hui is correct in his assessment. Yang is mainly known for his stellar record in the 10m air rifle, which began in 2013 as a young Chinese emerged as a shooting prodigy.

In 2012, Yang won the youth event in the 10m air rifle at the Asian Air Gun Championships. One year later, the 17-year-old Yang won the men's 10m air rifle event from his first try at the ISSF World Cup stage in Fort Benning, USA, on May 6, 2013.

The gold medal seemed to open a door for the young shooter. Yang reaped golds in two ISSF World Cup stages and the World Cup Final in 2013.

When asked about any secrets to his success in the sport, Yang's quiet demeanor shines through. He replies, "nothing special," or "just hard work."

The reporters for the ISSF official website have even tagged him as a "quiet Chinese dream," saying his lack of words portrays a mix of shyness and humility.

Yang's status as a rising star is as well known as his quiet demeanor. He has won just every major international title since 2013, such as the Asian Shooting Championship (Tehran, 2013) and the Asian Games (Incheon, 2014); the ISSF World Cup (Munich, 2014), the World Cup Final (Munich, 2013), the World Championship (Granada, 2014); and the Youth Olympic Games (Nanjing, 2014).

There's only one thing he lacks — an Olympic gold.

Yang finished a disappointing 31st at last year's Rio Olympics, but that has not stopped his drive to chase an Olympic gold medal.

"I do not think my experience in the Rio Games was a setback. It actually made me more mature," he said.

Yang started shooting in 2008, eight years after Cai Yalin won the Olympic gold in 10m air rifle in Sydney. Cai became Yang's coach a few years later, and they have worked together toward Yang's Olympic aspirations ever since.

"Boring as shooting is, it is truly a sport that can make you feel like family. Love shooting as always," wrote Yang on his personal WeChat page, a Chinese social messaging app.

Even though he is just 21 years old, Yang is already a seasoned shooter and can even deal with some tricky questions.

"As I can't afford to buy a house, I will continue training for the 2020 Games," smiled Yang, joking about the surging real estate prices in China.

Yang repeatedly said that he felt lucky to win and once joked that he might have to become a farmer after his Rio experience.

"The inclusion of new event does not matter for me. I still need to train a lot in order to win a medal," said Yang.

The 10m air pistol mixed team, the 10m air rifle mixed team and trap mixed team events were ratified to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by the International Olympic Committee on June 9, 2017 under the recommendation of the sport's world governing body ISSF.

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