Shooting for a dream

Updated: 2011-07-15 07:38

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Qi Baosong says he likes fishing so much that he can sit through a morning motionlessly waiting for a fish to take his bait.

Shooting for a dream

Qi Baosong, 25, who won a medal at the 10th Military and Police Sniper World Cup, tries out a sniper rifle with his teammate at the headquarters of the Beijing SWAT team on June 23. Dong Shibiao / for China Daily

And from that hobby, he has learned the value of two attributes that now stand him in good stead in his work as a professional sniper: patience and concentration.

As a college graduate majoring in sanshou, a Chinese combat sport, he became inured to the stresses that arise during conflict and, as a result, can now remain calm during emergencies.

That, too, has contributed to his success as a sniper.

"Snipers must be patient and quick to respond," said Qi, who has been training for his profession since 2007, a year after he graduated from Beijing Sport University and joined the Beijing Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

Through that work, the 25-year-old shooter became the first Chinese to take second place in the individual all-round competition in the recent 10th Military and Police Sniper World Cup, a three-day competition that was held in Budapest, Hungry. This year the event attracted 118 participants from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and 16 other countries.

In one remarkable feat of marksmanship, Qi managed to slice a 5.8-millimeter bullet in half by shooting it into a thin blade that was placed 60 meters away. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that he had only 10 seconds to prepare for the shot.

Of the 40 competitors in his group, only a third hit the blade. And they used bullets of a larger caliber.

Qi, who is a newcomer to the competition, said he would remain calm before each game, even when competition organizers would wait until 10 minutes before a test of their skill began to tell them to get ready.

"That was probably because they wanted to simulate what it is like in real life," Qi said. "A sniper, most of the time, has to respond on short notice.

"Anyway, we are trained not only for competitions but to protect the public's safety."

The Beijing SWAT team was formed in 2005 and charged with rescuing hostages, combating terrorism, serving arrest and search warrants and undertaking other work meant to maintain social stability.

The team now has about 1,000 members.

Qi said joining the SWAT team let him fulfill a long-held aspiration. When still a child, he had dreamed about becoming a police officer.

Because of the training in kungfu he underwent at college and his successful forging of a strong will and a calm temperament, he was selected as a sniper in the SWAT team's Blue Sword Commando Unit, an elite force, in 2007.

Like many others who obtained most of their knowledge of snipers from films, Qi said he thought of the profession as being both mysterious and alluring. Snipers, he explained, "are called by numbers instead of names".

"But after becoming one of them, I can tell you that being a marksman is actually very lonely and tedious," Qi said.

To be consistent in the performance of their duties, snipers must possess extraordinary powers of concentration, Qi said. And they cannot have that without regular and intense practice.

Qi said he and his 100 or so colleagues undergo strict training every day. In the morning, they march for two hours in the countryside and then follow that with six hours of shooting.

"In fact, we have to be on standby 24 hours at a stretch, ready to respond to any emergency," Qi said.

Qi has been sent on several missions but has never fired a shot during one.

"If we're negotiating with a kidnapper, for instance, we usually go out first and wait," Qi said. "If the talks work, we come back."

That is not to say Qi has not had opportunities to show off his marksmanship. He said he often plays war games in the field with friends.

"Usually, I play by myself against many opponents," Qi said with a smile. "Without exception, I dispatch them all."