Shooting is not just a sport. It is an art that requires high level of concentration, accuracy, speed and strength. No matter how good your shooting skill is, it is not easy to perfect all these qualities in one go, and not too many people can boast to have mastered even one in a short span of time.
In Cambodia, taking shooting as a recreational activity or a competitive sport is considered extravagant. And the circumstances become trickier for women shooters.
But, Peou Olica – a nationally recognised pistol shooter – has a different story to tell.
Olica became well known for her expertise in shooting when she joined the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) National Games in 2018. She failed to grab the trophy, but she left a mark not just in the shooting range, but in the eyes of the general public.
As a woman in a male-dominated field in sports, Olica challenged herself to break glass ceiling and bring honour to Khmer women through her chosen passion. And being part of the IPSC National Games 2018 was one of her greatest feats so far.
Olica, who earned her degree in economics from the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), was born in family whose members never participated or got involved in pistol shooting or any shooting sport. She is special – being the first generation in her clan to have fought hard for a dream not too many people believed she could achieve.
“I was questioned by so many people including my family and friends. They’re not sure if what I am doing is right or not. Being a woman who’s holding a gun and wanting to become a national shooter does not really depict a conventional Cambodian woman. But that’s the thing, I don’t want to be ordinary. I asked them back: how do they define right and wrong? How can they say shooting is wrong if I use my skill in sports and not in battlefields?”
With her determination to be good in her field, Olica made her way towards last year’s national games where she exhibited her passion and prowess.
“Gradually, I gained the trust and acceptance from my friends and family. They now believe that I don’t shoot for fun or for mere hobby. I am aiming to become Cambodia’s national shooter.”
An inspiration for many aspiring shooters, Peou Olica’s journey as a Cambodia female shooter began at the age of 21, when she was first introduced by her friend to the shooting range in 2015. It was her first try; and it was also at that time when she realised the beauty and art of shooting. She never stopped since that day.
“The first time I touched the gun and fired a shot was the moment that I know I found something I have been looking for my whole life. Being in the range, standing strong and shooting the target, gives me pride and a sense of belonging. My attachment towards shooting is so strong and I am so determined to not give up on this passion.”
Everyone can shoot, yes. But not everyone knows the ethics and rules of holding and shooting different kinds of guns. The rule and virtue of holding gun entail deep understanding, acceptance and master. And it is necessary that everyone should have wide knowledge on it and do it the legal way – in sports, for example.
“Participating in the shooting practices and competitions allowed me to know the distinction between legal permissibility and moral responsibility of holding a gun.
I hold on to the belief that people who really understand their moral responsibility when holding a gun will never do any harm to other people. Those who don’t acknowledge the rule of law are the ones who create anarchy in society.”
As every kind of sport has its health and physical benefits, shooting also provides various benefits to maintain a healthier life, explained Olica.
“Shooting requires intense physical practice including running, crawling and daily exercise which not only boosts your physical fitness but also your mental energy,” she shared.
Olica emphasised that during practices and trainings, she has to make sure she’s fit and healthy as she has to do the exercises under the blazing heat. She also has to constantly deal with harsh comments from her coaches and fellow shooters on her performances, But all these, she said, also help her to persevere more.
“These struggles have taught me a lot of lessons in life. It gave me a sense of focus and self-belief. I taught me to never back down from any hardship. Shooting also gave me a way to control my feelings, to be more calm and stable. It taught me to try again and again when I fail – to reload, aim and shoot again.”
Peou Olica’s passion for her chosen sport is also her way to encourage women to be stronger.
“Shooting should not be defined as a men-only sport. It should be played equally by all genders. I want to see bravery in the eyes of my fellow women. I want them to fight for what is right, for what they love and for who they want to be.”