When Sandra Fong raises her rifle Wednesday morning in the 50m small-bore rifle three-position competition, she will be shooting for her whole family. And that's a very odd thing. It's hard to imagine a more unlikely sport for three young high-achieving Manhattan sisters to master than riflery. And yet that is the story of Sandra, Abigail and Danielle Fong.
Sandra, 18, narrowly beat out Abigail, 20, to make the Olympic team at the U.S. Trials, behind event leader Jamie Beyerle. Sandra had a superb second day to edge out her older sister.
"It's always difficult to compete against each other, and was especially so with an Olympics spot on the line," says Fong, who recently graduated from Hunter College High School and will join Abigail at Princeton University next month. "We've gotten used to since we've been doing it for the last six years but its never fun to win at the expense of a family member. I was disappointed for her and she was happy for me' that's who it always works. "
Youngest sister Danielle, 17, who was born with cerebral palsy, will be in Beijing next month as a member of the Paralympics Shooting Team. Oddly enough, the family love affair with rifles started in a swimming pool. Sandy and Abby were serious swimmers. When they competed in the New York State Empire State Games, their father Dr. Yuman Fong reveled in the competitive environment and got the itch to return to the riflery meets he competed in as a San Francisco high school student, after emigrating from Hong Kong. When he started shooting again, he dragged his daughters with him to a range in Long Island. Sandy was eleven and a half when she attended her first competition, shooting an air rifle. Six months later, she was shooting the small-bore .22 caliber rifle.
"We just went to the range for fun and did it alongside him," Fong recalls. "As we were practicing one day, he said it would be fun to go to a match and we ended up placing very well for our first time and it progressed from there. We all enjoyed the competition."
The competition often rolls over into their regular workouts, now conducted at range in Ridgewood, New Jersey. "We can get pretty competitive but it's fun - it helps us stay focused," says Fong. "How many people get world class athletes to train with every day? I think I'm pretty lucky."
Her Olympics dream began four years ago when she attended a shooting camp and they were handed a form to fill out. One question was "What is your goal?" But she hesitated to put down the truth: making the Olympics.
"A counselor asked me why I wasn't writing anything and I told him and he said, 'If that's you dream, put down then work hard and it can happen.'"
Now that the once far fetched dream has come true Fong is trying to enjoy every second, attending as many other events as she can while preparing for her own competition. "It's just been one incredible moment after another," she says. "I walked in the opening ceremony. And there are now rods to describe it. You dream about it and when it's there, its almost surreal. It's truly amazing."
Still, Fong says that the truly remarkably athlete in her family is Danielle. "It takes a lot more effort, a lot of strength and a little bit of stubbornness from her to hold the gun," says Fong. "The degree of strength and determination she has to develop is 100 times greater than mine. She's my Olympics hero."
American Libby Callahan competed in the women's sport pistol event at the age of 56. After finishing 25th in the sport pistol event, she contemplates another Olympics.