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On Real Life Pressures of Elite Athletes, Scuba Diving and Mental Health: Martina Lindsay Veloso

Having enjoyed success at the top level from a young age, this Team Singapore shooter learned ways to cope with the pressure and disappointment of not making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

At the tender age of just 23, Martina Lindsay Veloso can already say she’s had a decade-long career in elite sport. The Singapore national shooter rose to international fame when she was only 14 years-old.


Veloso beat olympic champion, Katerina Emmons in the 10m Air Rifle event at the 2014 ISSF World Cup and became the youngest ever ISSF medalist. Coupled with a few silver medals in between, Veloso also bagged gold at the 2017 SEA Games and two more at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she also set a new Games record.


As a young elite athlete, Veloso spent her meticulously planned-out life in the limelight which has pushed her to grow up fast. “Because of all these achievements since young, there’s been a lot of expectations. With more years of experience and training, rightfully I should become better right and win more medals right? That’s not always the case,” Veloso shared truthfully.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

In 2020, Veloso failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, the one event the shooter has yet to compete at. “There was a lot of expectations and I had to talk to my psychologist and my coach. We had to be real. What if I didn’t make it to the Olympics? How was I going to deal with it? The pressure was too much and at the time I was only 19 going 20.”


For Veloso, there was a need to be reminded of her young age due to the sheer number of years she already had under her belt, which is exactly what her team did. “It's been about two years and I’ve grown a lot as a person since then,” she shared.


One of the biggest ways Veloso has changed is learning to open up to her peers. “Back when I was 14 or 15, I felt like if I told my friends, would they actually understand? We were all young and the challenges I was going through was different so I kept it to myself. They were there for me for sure but I didn’t really want to waste my energy telling them,” she recounted.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

In the last two to three years, her wall has come down. “Looking at it long term, I can’t be closed off forever. My friends tell me to cry it out and I’ll feel better."


Described as bubbly and outgoing by those around her, Veloso does enjoy having joyful conversations and avoids sulking. It can be unhealthy though if happiness isn’t truly what you feel in that moment.


“As much as we try to hide our feelings, we always want to put up a strong front because we don’t want to be judged by anyone,” she admits.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

PHOTO: MARTINA VELOSO


"Sometimes, I feel like I can’t truly be upset even if I do feel sad. If I’m upset during a competition and I act like I’m okay, I feel like I’m gaslighting myself as I’m not feeling the things I actually am feeling. It can snowball.”

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

Mental health is a topic close to her heart but with it still being slightly taboo in Singapore, there is still a hesitancy to speak on it.


As part of mental health awareness month in May, Veloso had planned for weeks to publish an honest post about the state of her mental health on Instagram.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

Two months worth of unsuccessful competitions in her 50m three positions outdoor event had taken a toll on her. “What if I received backlash? I told my friends I regret posting it, was I being too vulnerable? I felt that I wasn’t feeling mentally okay then, it was a rough period but I ended up receiving a lot of positive comments,” she smiles.


At the end of those two stressful months, the Team Singapore shooter returned home to complete her exams and was due to go back to training.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

Already struggling with fatigue, Veloso was then hit with something she had never experienced in her career. While training for her 50m outdoors, she was unable to control her body nor her breathing.


“I felt suffocated. I was just tearing up for no reason. Certain shots I couldn’t even pull the trigger as my finger froze.” she recounts.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

Veloso gathered the courage to be honest with herself and her coach. “I was being very straight with him that I didn’t think I could continue shooting like this until I am better. I didn’t want to turn something I loved into something I hate. That would be my biggest nightmare.”


Veloso loves to go scuba diving with her father and her younger brother and credits it as a way to rewind. Just last July, the trio had gone to her mother’s hometown in the Philippines for their underwater adventure.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

The trip was spontaneously planned by Veloso who needed a getaway. “My life is so planned out, it can be suffocating. So I’m a bit more impromptu with the fun stuff that has nothing to do with shooting. My work life is already so serious so I learned how to become more chill and not so uptight in the last couple of years.”


Veloso was inspired to become a certified diver after seeing her father volunteer to recover the bodies of victims of the 2004 tsunami. The family had been in Thailand on holiday when disaster struck. Having something she loves inspired by her father, it’s no surprise that Veloso credits her family as a blessing.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

“People used to question if my dad worked because he was always there at competitions with my family. I’ve been blessed with very supportive parents,” she shared.

PHOTO VIA MARTINA VELOSO, CREDIT TO SOURCE

With the love and constant support from her family and her friends, it’s unsurprising that Veloso not only struck gold as a teenager, but then evolved to become the better version of herself she is today. “I haven’t made it to the Olympics yet but I know I will be there one day,” Veloso said, voice full of hope.


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