Shooting – a history that made my future...

The only word I can use to describe my entry into the world of shooting sport is “accident”. I was born into a family who loved guns. My father got to know about this sport in 1978, became an international shooter in 1981-82, made a world record in 1983, won the Arjuna Award in 1985, won three consecutive gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in 1990, 1994 and 1998 apart from several other Asian medals and hundreds of national medals, all in pistol shooting. So I was very comfortable with the idea of guns, having seeing them all around me since the time I was born. Thefirst shot I ever fired was from an air pistol, sitting in my father’s lap, and I think I was around three years old then. But ofcourse I haven’t been shooting since I was three...

I was born in 1985 and till 1998, shooting for me was like a once a month Sunday outing to the shooting range at Worli sea face in Mumbai. At that young age I found it boring to shoot at the paper targets so dad would try and make it interesting by getting some plastic cans and glass bottles filled with water, which would explode when I hit them correctly. Once I shot a bottle and instead of exploding, the water simply started leaking out of the hole created by the bullet of a .22 l.r. calibre. I was so embarrassed because I thought I had missed the bottle but others could see the water leaking out from the neck of the glass bottle where the bullet had hit. My father told me to aim at the base of the bottle for it to explode, and I did so....and the result was a super explosion of the bottle, and the emergence of pride and confidence inside me! Innocently like a 5 year old kid I told everyone see I can hit exactly where I want...not knowing that in just a few years, that’s what is going to become of my keep hitting where I want...and all I want is to hit the centre...

Curiosity set in motion...
It was during the summer vacation in 1998, we had planned a weekend family holiday at Mahabaleshwar. We had just left home when my father realised he has some pending work at the shooting range. So we had to take a pit stop at the shooting range that afternoon. Today you would find quite a few shooters shooting at the shooting range because of the increased popularity of the sport, but in 1998, one would hear the sound of bullets firing only a week before a competition or during a competition. I heard not few but many shots being fired so I asked my father who is shooting and he said there is a state level novice’s competition in progress.

Not once did I feel like participating, but a few minutes later my father told us that he would take a while to finish his work. He asked me if I would like to shoot that match just to kill time. I wasn’t sure but shooting the match was better than doing nothing so I agreed. My father put my entry and the next round of the match was to begin in 15-20 was the Standard Pistol event and I had no clue about the rules of the competition...because I was only a bottle shooter, not a target shooter! In 15mins my father explained the rules to me and gave me his .22 Walther GSP pistol to shoot the match. In the standard pistol NR category match I was required to shoot 5 shots in two and a hal minutes, six times. So it was a total 30 shots competition. He explained the concept of six’o clock aiming since I was used to aiming where I needed the shot to hit, but in competitions we use the six’o clock aiming concept. And then the competition began, with me being trained verbally for only 15mins. It went on for almost 1 hour and then we left for our holiday. Neither me nor my family

even thought about looking at the result since this match was only for killing time and what result would I have achieved anyways...l knew nothing about this event!

The next day when my father called the range to monitor the routine work, he was in for a big shock. There were a lot of congratulatory messages pouring in because his son had won the gold medal! Was it a win, or was it a miracle? The gold medal was won without any formal training, without any effort and without any prior knowledge or familiarity with the rules and procedure of the event. All that I knew was how my father had taught me to shoot the shot when I shot the bottles.

The taste of success!!!
When the school reopened after a month, I carried my gold medal to the school and informedthe teacher and principle about my achievement. They made an announcement in the school and everyone congratulated me, after all I had won a gold medal at a state level competition. I loved the attention and importance that was being showered on me. Which 13 year old would not?

And this is where it all began. It did not begin when I first fired a shot from a gun, it did not begin when I shot the competition, it did not begin when I won the gold medal. It began when I received the attention and importance in school!!

Achievement is a waste if it goes unacknowledged and unrecognised. Unfortunately in this world, hard work is rarely acknowledged, it is an achievement or a win that grabs attention. Hard work without achievement ends up in demoralisation whereas nothing gives you more confidence or motivation like winning does.

I would like to share a conversation I once had with multiple World champion and Olympic champion Mr. Ragnar Skanaker of Sweden. I was introduced to him in the year 2000 by our team coach Mr. Tibor Gonczol. Mr. Skanaker was already over 65 years old then and still competing at the World Cups, trying to qualify for the next Olympic Games. We were told that for Mr. Skanaker, come rain or wind or sun or storm, but he would never stop training. So I asked him from where does he get the motivation to keep training all day, day after day, for over 30-40 years?

And he replied, “The day you win an International medal and see your national flag being raised high in a foreign land, with all the people standing still and paying respect to your national anthem, you will understand the source of this motivation.”

Probably that is why we say once a champion, always a champion!