PALEMBANG -- After his third Asian Games appearance, trap shooter Hagen Topacio was finally able to make his mark.
Topacio reached the finals of the men's trap shooting on Monday at the Jakabaring Shooting Range after two qualification rounds, only to fall short and end up in sixth place overall.
Despite the unfortunate finish, Topacio's journey back to the international stage and into Philippine shooting prominence has been nothing short of remarkable.
He was left in tears after a forgetful outing at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. Four years later, he competed sick with dengue at the 2014 events in Incheon. After two unsuccessful competitions, he was raring to compete once again.
"I really feel somewhat vindicated after this event because I made it into the finals," said Topacio. "It's been so long since there was a Filipino in the finals, especially in trap."
Topacio made an inspiring comeback in the first qualification day last Sunday. He had a dismal opening round of shots as he ended up 26th out of 30 participants with a score of 21. In the next two rounds, however, he shot the lights out to end up third with a total score of 71, to end at third place at the end of the first day of qualifications.
By the second day, he settled for fifth place with a total score of 118. If he scored any less, he wouldn't have made it into the final round.
"The competition was a bit harder now. As you can see, the eliminations were really close," he assessed. "I was fortunate enough to go up by one point."
In the finals, he started poorly, missing three of his first five shots. He eventually found his groove in the last two rounds, hitting 10 straight targets, but he ended up with an 18-for-25 total to end up sixth.
"I had a slow start in the finals. I was not able to get my proper rhythm in the first 10 shots. I was only able to get it during the last 10," he said, not blaming the weather nor the heat in the shooting range.
"If you see anybody missing, that's just us. That's on us. Everything else in the range is nice," he added reassuringly.
After finally making a significant run in the Asian Games, the 28-year-old shared that this will help in the future competitions.
"It's a very good confidence booster. I've only been in the finals in big competitions like these maybe twice or thrice," he humbly said about his performance. "I hope in the near future I can participate again and eventually enter the finals again.
Topacio says that he's still not sure if he'll compete in the 2019 SEA Games. Eliminations for the meet are still ongoing until December and the final lineup for next year has yet to be finalized.
In the meantime, the former UP Fighting Maroon judokan is proud to represent Philippine shooting.
"I think in my own little way we can show to our countrymen that shooting is a good sport. It's a very nice discipline. It's fun to learn. And it's a very good community especially here in Asia," he said.