In Lima this time, it was the turn of names like Naamya Kapoor, Esha Singh, Rhythm Sangwan, Navdeep Kaur, Shaurya Sarin, Arjun Singh Cheema, Shikha Narwal and many others to appear on the horizon of India’s shooting scene. The sport desperately needed medal news after drawing a blank for the second successive Olympics, this time in Tokyo, and the young brigade didn’t disappoint.
The 85-member squad managed a record haul of 43 medals, including 17 gold, to finish on top of the table, ahead of the USA and Italy.
The 14-year-old Naamya made heads turn when she beat the more accomplished Manu Bhaker, who finished third, and won gold in the women’s 25m Pistol event.
Overall, however, Manu regained some of her confidence that took a hit in Tokyo. She bagged five medals in Lima, four gold and a bronze.
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“The important part is how well we protect them (young shooters) now on,” said India’s junior pistol coach and Dronacharya awardee, Jaspal Rana, while talking to TimesofIndia.com.
Rana, who has been one of the flag-bearers of India’s junior programme since its inception, cautioned the coaches and parents of young achievers against going overboard out of excitement.
“I just hope nobody tries to change (anything) further in them,” said the 45-year-old pistol guru.
“Parents get excited. They want to get better coaches. They should not do that. Whatever place they are training at is good enough for them to perform, don’t try to overdo it. If you overdo it, it’s going to be a disaster. The only thing you can work on is discipline,” Rana added during his conversation with TimesofIndia.com.
Talking about coaches, one of the youngsters on the tour, Rhythm Sangwan, had her personal coach Vineet Kumar travelling with her.
A class 12 humanities student from Haryana, Rhythm went on to win four gold medals on her second international tour — three in team events and one individual top-place finish in the women’s 25m standard pistol. She narrowly missed out on individual medals in 25m sports pistol and 10m air pistol events, finishing fourth in both.
Rhythm credited her performance to her personal coach.
“It was a fantastic experience for me, I enjoyed and learned a lot…My personal coach Vineet Kumar went with me. It was with his support and guidance that I could win these medals,” Rhythm told TimesofIndia.com
But unlike Rhythm, not every shooter in the junior squad had a personal coach to fall back on. However, many shooters even in the senior squad travel with their personal coaches.
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Rana had an interesting take on that.
“These young kids, they have a habit of looking back, and then if you are not there, they get confused. Maybe they know everything, but they look back just to get the comfort that a coach is behind them. I don’t want to change them now because it’s too late to change anything,” said Rana.
One of the international debutants on the tour was pistol shooter Shaurya Sarin, who finished with a silver medal in the men’s 50m free pistol event, where India swept the medal haul.
Arjun Singh Cheema won gold and Ajinkya Chavan clinched bronze. All three shot the same score of 549 and were separated by the count of inner 10s and/or the best last series.
Sarin made an observation relevant to Rana’s point of view about the youngsters looking over their shoulder at coaches behind them.
“In the international arena, it’s different. You are travelling with the team, so you are not essentially training, you are just waiting for your match, because the range is busy with other events,” said Sarin, a 20-year-old history-honours student from Delhi, while talking to with TimesofIndia.com.
It’s something every new shooter wearing India colours has to cope with when on tour.
“So you have got to have that confidence in yourself and in your technique that you will just go there and perform. To shoot when you are not in rhythm with the same confidence in a different country in a different environment, that is something new,” said Sarin.
Rana then concluded with another piece of advice for the young guns.
“Your studies are as important as your shooting career…you shouldn’t leave everything for shooting. It in itself is like putting too much pressure on yourself. You have to live your social life, family life, do your studies, you have to have your friends. You don’t have to leave everything and be at the range all the time. That’s not going to help anyway.”