Nicknamed "ID Girl", the Chinese Taipei shooting sensation is chasing both small and big dreams for Tokyo 2020.
WU Chia Ying’s story may well be different to many athletes who are preparing to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, but her achievements are undeniable.
The ISSF 2014 Shooting World Championship bronze medallist in Granada, didn’t start shooting until relatively late in life. After dedicating years to taekwondo training, she finally picked up an air rifle with one single goal in mind: To get into a good university.
Wu aspired to study at the police college and knew that training in shooting would gain her extra credits, so in high school she began to acquaint herself with rifles.
In the end, Wu was unable to get admitted at the police college due to rules regarding the height of applicants. But one university's loss was another’s gain, as she was accepted in a sports university.
Her life as an athlete was about to begin.
Wu’s nickname, “ID Girl”, comes from the photograph used on her identification card at the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade (a sporting competition that took place in Shenzhen, People's Republic of China). But it was her performances over the following years that really caught everyone's eye.
For Wu, 2014 was a breakout year. Prior to winning the 10m air pistol bronze medal in Granada and securing the first Rio 2016 spots for Chinese Taipei, she won a silver medal at the Asian Shooting Championships in Kuwait and team silver at the Incheon Asian Games.
At Rio 2016, success was harder to come by, as she finished 19th in 10m air pistol and 27th in 25m pistol. And after Rio, unfortunately things didn't improve, as she failed to qualify for the 10m air rifle event and finished 17th in 25m pistol at the Jakarta Asian Games.
While Wu’s life was going through a difficult period from a sporting point of view, she threw herself into her University studies, graduating with a Master’s degree from Taiwan Normal University.
And slowly but surely her sporting form began to improve. At the 2019 ISSF World Cup event in India, she won silver in the 10m air pistol and secured her spot at Tokyo 2020.
But just as her Olympic preparations were entering a critical period, the global outbreak of COVID-19 caused the Olympic Games to be postponed. Wu recalled the moment in an exclusive interview with Tokyo 2020.
“My mood didn’t go up and down that much at that time. I felt it was a pity the Tokyo Games were postponed but, thinking about things positively, the postponement also provided me with more time to improve my training and correct my errors.”
Due to the successful containment of COVID-19 in Chinese Taipei, Wu revealed her training hasn’t been greatly affected. The main differences with her training include frequent body temperature measurements and stricter whereabouts controls.
Wu continues to face all her challenges with optimism, without allowing her focus to be disturbed by negativity. The sport of shooting has always been considered a self-battle by athletes, particularly during the critical moments of competitions when those who fare better at controlling their emotions often finish with better results.
For Wu, music is a great way for her to adjust her mindset that's why she always wears headphones during training sessions.
“I like to listen to noisy music during training, which helps me improve my focus. When I am in a more excitable mood, I like to listen to quiet music to calm me down. Shooting requires a high level of continuous concentration from athletes, and my habit of reading is also helpful.”
Prior to the pandemic, Wu flew all over the world to compete, placing physical and mental demands on her. But spending time with her family has always been her favourite way to unwind.
“I always enjoy being together with my family, they have the magic that makes me feel fully relaxed and happy. When competing abroad, sleeping also helps me to focus. When you’re fully recharged, your mind is clearer.”
Away from the range, Wu enjoys many of the other things people of her age do - including expressing herself through her creative nail designs.
“We shooters are using the palm to hold the gun and finger pad to pull the trigger, so painted nails don’t affect our performances. Every time I watch competition replays, I enjoy watching my fingers and tell myself ‘how beautiful the painting is’.”
Almost five years have passed since Rio 2016 and Wu no longer feels she's the same nervous Olympic debutant.
“I feel calmer during competitions than I did before. I don’t care as much about winning or losing. I used to care about people’s opinions of me and my results too much, which didn’t help my performance, and now I can take it easy.”
And Wu has this to say about the difference between her Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 preparations.
“When I participated in the Olympic Games for the first time, the tension was overwhelming and before the Games, I didn’t prepare well enough in terms of my focus and handling pressure. But this time, we’ve paid a lot of attention to it. Because of the postponement, we had more time to get even stronger. We are still training for it every day.”
The Chinese Taipei shooting team now uses physical training to help their shooters prepare for the pressure of an Olympic Games. It is not something often seen with the sport, as Wu explained: “Physical training strengthens our cardiorespiratory functions as well as our core strength. The better our body functions, the longer we can deal with pressure and stay focused on the range. It’s very important for the critical moments in the finals.”
Last August, the shooting team held an Olympic simulation competition to help athletes replicate the feeling of the Games. During the competitions, Wu shot low scores which are rare for her, but she still managed to win the competition thanks to her stronger mindset.
There are only four months to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021. Looking ahead to the journey to Japan this summer, Wu said: “My biggest wish is that the Tokyo Olympics Games can go ahead smoothly, without any issues. Japan is a country where etiquette is paramount, we will be well received for sure. I’m also looking forward to the food in Japan - the restaurants in the Olympic Village will be amazing.”
Wu enjoys the challenge of constantly pursuing the higher levels of performance the sport of shooting demands and, for that reason, she hopes her career in shooting continues for as long as she is able to compete.
When she arrives at the Olympics, she’ll be focused on both “small goals” and “big goals”.
As she said with a smile on her face: "The small goal is to demonstrate what I have shown on the training ground on the Olympic stage and advance to the final. The big goal is definitely to be on the podium. But anyway, firstly you must show your level at the Olympic Games, and then fate will guide you to where you should be.”