Associated Press

Jay Shi overcomes freak eye injury for long-awaited Olympic berth

Leave a comment

PHOENIX (AP) — The shirt, with blue short sleeves and U-S-A written above red Olympic rings, remained stashed in the back of Jay Shi‘s closet yet at the forefront of his thoughts.

He would wear it one day. It just had to be earned first.

The shirt was more than fabric, thread, logo. It was a goal, only to be pulled off the hanger when a spot on the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team was his.

“It was out of sight but not out of mind,” Shi said.

Shooting is a sport everyday people believe they could do if they had the right training, support and equipment.

It’s a bit like golf: An average player can hit an occasional good shot, maybe string several together for a good round.

Shooting at the Olympic level goes beyond having a steady hand and a good eye at the local shooting range. It’s a mental game, locking in on the 10-ring every shot, every round under heartbeat-in-the-throat pressure, tuning out the external and internal noise to focus only on target, breath, trigger.

Shi faced even longer odds.

He was 9 when the scissors he was using for a school project slid up a string and into his right eye.

Wanting better medical care for their son, Shi’s parents moved the family from Beijing to New York, where a friend of his grandfather worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Doctors restored his vision, though far from perfectly.

The accident left Shi unable to see fine details, three dimensionally or judge distances well, impairments that would seemingly black out his future as an elite shooter.

Through years of practice, trial and error, determination overcame debilitation and Shi shifted his head, lining up his left eye down the sight of the gun positioned in his right hand.

It’s called shooting cross-eyed, the shooting equivalent of trying to drive a car from the passenger’s seat.

“It’s incredible what he’s been able to accomplish,” said Bill Poole, one of Shi’s earliest coaches at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club. “He put in the work to figure out what he needed to do.”

Shi’s parents appeased his early interest in guns by steering him toward archery, a sport he excelled at until his college workload became too unwieldy.

Once Beijing landed the 2008 Olympics, Shi was determined to return to his hometown and compete on the sporting world’s biggest stage.

Shi didn’t want to do it in archery and thought shooting might be his best chance, so he went to Walmart, bought an off-the-shelf air gun and taped a target to his refrigerator.

He hit the targets in his kitchen and in competition, too, finishing third in his first turn at nationals.

But natural talent could only take him so far. A lack of technical skill became an insurmountable impediment the deeper he went.

Shi fell short of the Beijing Olympics and again at the 2012 London Games after taking three years off — to focus on his career during the economic downturn — sending him spiraling into self-doubt.

“I wanted to quit probably more times than I can count,” he said.

Giving up was not an option, so Shi put his analytical mind to task.

The 37-year-old web developer worked the angles on his cross-eyed shooting dilemma, creating a code to shooting straight.

He tilted his head centimeters to the right. To the left. Shifted his body right. Left. His wrist, too. He tore apart his grip and rebuilt it again and again.

“It was kind of like Edison trying to find a lightbulb,” Shi said. “Then one day it just kind of fell into place; ‘This feels good.’ Then I adopted other ways into what I had just discovered. I was like like wow, this really feels natural.”

Shi’s confidence and technical skill began to rise after his ah-ha moment, mind and muscle memory narrowing into fine focus.

He earned a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in his first international final and peaked at the U.S. Olympics Trials in April with a dominating performance.

Shi led from the opening round in Fort Benning, Georgia, and closed with field-crushing final day, finishing 26 points ahead of his nearest competitor in men’s free pistol. Only when it was over did Shi break concentration; his father had to tell him he had made the U.S. Olympic Team.

“I thought I would be really excited, but I wasn’t,” Shi said. “I think it was because it took so long. When you have something in the back of your mind that you think about every day for 10 years, you can only dream of it and get by on desire and determination.”

Shi’s drive has led him to the Rio Olympics this August, where he’ll compete in free pistol and air gun.

It also took him to the back of his closet.

The Olympic Trials over, Shi returned home and grabbed that blue shirt with the red logo. He lifted it off the hanger, slid it over his head and checked the fit in the mirror.

“I was very proud and honored to earn the right to wear it,” he said. “I had a smile that lasted quite a while.”

MORE: Kim Rhode still No. 1 after difficult pregnancy, gun change on road to history

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

Leave a comment

If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

French Open Women's Draw French Open Women's Draw French Open Women's Draw French Open Women's Draw

2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

French Open Men's Draw French Open Men's Draw French Open Men's Draw French Open Men's Draw