Eye on the bullseye

Focus. That’s what senior Ashley Choi tells herself when she is on the shooting grounds.

Choi deals with Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), which affects her ability to concentrate, by filtering negative thoughts out of her head. Despite her disadvantage, Choi managed to place second in the air pistols and free pistols events at the California International Pistol Championships from Oct. 24-25 against 18 other high school and adult competitors. Choi also placed fourth in rapid fire pistols and sixth in junior women’s sports pistols.

“It was really surprising. I actually thought I didn’t do that well until I got my scores. It was a really new experience because I had never really done anything like that,” Choi said. “I knew that it was going to be tough, but if I kept my mentality straight and I tried my best, I would have been satisfied.”

Choi’s cousin, who did competitive shooting for six years, first introduced the sport to Choi’s family around two months ago. For her first tournament, Choi knew she was going up against people who had been shooting for over six years.

“It added more pressure because I already had a feeling before that I had a disadvantage,” Choi said. “Obviously, they were more experienced, and I was really proud of myself when I found out I beat a couple of more experienced shooters.”

When the audience in competitions creates distractions by screaming and cheering, Choi’s ADD kicks in and makes it difficult to focus. Even during practice in a quiet setting, she can easily miss targets if her concentration level starts to fall. To regain focus, she occasionally takes breaks when she finds herself losing concentration.

“I try to focus 100 percent when I shoot, but there are moments where I kind of slip away. I usually see it as a roadblock when I’m not shooting well. I blame it all back on my ADD, on how I can’t focus as much as others,” Choi said. “When I feel that I need to gain some more focus, I just put the gun down and relax for a while. I know how to get myself back on track.”

Outside of school, Choi is a member of the Bridge Junior Shooting Club. She participates in competitions involving different events for pistol shooting. At Prado Olympic Shooting Park, she spends four hours shooting on weekdays and three hours on weekends.

“[Shooting] really helps me clear out my mind. When I’m having a stressful or bad day, I go to the range, [and] I just solely focus on shooting. It allows me to be in another place away from my problems,” Choi said. “After I come out of the range, I feel pretty good.”

Choi’s parents continue to support her in the sport because Choi looks to get into the Coast Guard Academy Team, shoot in more local competitions and eventually serve the government as a coast guard officer, her goal ever since freshman year.

“I’m always [shooting] to break a record [and] get to my ultimate point. I have to keep trying hard. I look into the future and see myself doing better than I am doing now,” Choi said. “Seeing seniors that were older than me getting [into the Coast Guard Academy], I was really inspired. I was like, ‘I really want to be like them one day.’”

By Kevin Arifin, Staff writer

Photo by Sajid Iqbal