Shooter Jayson Valdez in best shape ahead of Tokyo Olympics

A vastly improved fitness regimen could be the key for shooter Jayson Valdez and his chances of bringing home a medal from the Tokyo Olympics in July.

The 25-year-old is feeling upbeat heading into next month's Games owing to a renewed focus in improving his physical condition over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm more confident now," shared Valdez Tuesday during the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum. "I guess it was my self-discipline that helped me a lot. Sure, I was mentally confident before, but I wasn't too confident about my physical condition."

"When I started to get more physically fit starting last year, that's when I realized that I should also take care of my body. As a result, I'm a little more consistent with my scores and I'm able to bump them up lately," he added.

The son of three-time Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) gold medalist Julius Valdez became the 12th Filipino to qualify for the Olympiad via the continental quota in the men's 10m air rifle event.

Thanks to the work he put in ever since the lockdowns starting last year, Valdez shed around 10 to 15lbs and believes he could be much more than just another Olympic participant.

"Back then, I weighed around 195lbs," he opened. "I often went up against chubby athletes who were really good. So I thought, 'I could do that too.' That was my perspective before."

"But my dad told me that even though they looked big, they were actually physically fit. That was the big difference. For my part, I had a lot of body fat and I had no physical training. That's how I knew I had to change my approach. I figured that I shouldn't compare myself to how they approached the sport," he continued.

The fruits of his labor were evident immediately. Valdez, whose personal best stands at 626, revealed that he has already hit 630 and 631 during training - marks that would be enough to tie or break the Olympic record of 630.2 set by 2016 gold medalist Niccolò Campriani of Italy.

"We stopped training last year, but we jumped back into it late December to early January. During that time, I really took care of my physical condition," he shared. "That period from March to December was the longest I've ever rested in my 10-year career. So when I started shooting again, I felt really great and I started posting big scores."

The initial goal for Valdez heading into Tokyo is pretty simple: to beat his personal-best. Once he does that, the 2015 SEA Games bronze medalist is adamant he has a strong chance at overcoming the pressure that comes with inching closer to a medal.

"I think of it as good pressure. This is where I can test myself and see how good I am. It's all positive for me. There's always pressure, but I see pressure as a driving force for my family and my country. That's the good kind of pressure," he remarked.

"In the top eight, everyone starts from zero. That's where the pressure sinks in. Kapag nakapasok na ako sa top eight, maghanda na ang buong Pilipinas (Once I make the top eight, the entire country should brace itself)," he concluded, good-humoredly.