Software engineering and competitive pistol shooting really aren’t all that different, according to Jay Shi.
In both engineering and shooting, “you’re presented with a problem, and you have to figure out how to solve it. There’s always a way, no matter what,” he said.
Shi, an application developer at the Arizona Corporation Commission, will be competing in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as part of Team USA.
The 37-year-old Arizonan, originally from Beijing, will be participating in the men’s free pistol and men’s air pistol events.
The path to the Olympics included one big hurdle for Shi: As a child in Beijing, his right eye was injured with a scissors. That’s actually why his family came to the United States, to receive treatment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
“I don’t think I ever thought about competing in the Olympics. Never in my wildest dreams have I dreamed of it,” he said.
He can see well enough using a corrective contact lens in his right eye, but the contact lens doesn’t provide him with the necessary precision for shooting. His iris can’t shrink or expand, so judging distance and details is difficult, he said.
It took him about five years to learn how to shoot well enough, using his right hand and left eye.
“It just proves to me and a lot of other people that sometimes it’s possible, through working as hard as you can and never giving up. It’s such a cliche, but it does work wonders,” Shi said.
Shi has been competing in the Olympic trial competitions for the past few months, taking unpaid leave from the Corporation Commission as he traveled for the events.
Originally an archer, he started practicing shooting in 2006 in an effort to compete in the 2008 Beijing games because it would be a homecoming, but he didn’t make the team. He tried again in 2012 for the London games, but fell short.
But this year was his year, and he easily dominated in trials to join Team USA in Rio.
His parents, wife and a family friend will meet him in Brazil to watch him compete.
“The most exciting thing is putting on a USA uniform. … After everything our family has gone through, that to me is a tremendous honor, to wear the uniform and walk in the stadium,” he said.