After Abhinav Bindra shot himself into the history books by clinching India's first individual Olympic gold medal in the 10m air rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a slew of youngsters across the country took to the sport.
Unfortunately though, not too many promising new faces went on to achieve any significant glory thereafter. According to former national champion shooter Vishwajeet Shinde, there are two reasons for this.
“The first is lack of infrastructure and the second is the monotonous nature in which the sport is introduced to newcomers. I hope to change both these scenarios,” Shinde told MiD DAY at the Ajmera i-Land shooting academy in Wadala yesterday, where he is head of shooting operations. World champion shooter Anjali Bhagwat will be formally inaugurating the range on February 15 after which it will be thrown open to the general public.
“On my part, I have tried to help introduce new shooting ranges across Mumbai. And today the city boasts of four or five good ranges besides the Maharashtra Rifle Association Range in Worli. To tackle the second problem, I want to make shooting fun,” added 2010 World Railway Champion (Poland), who has a plan.
Catch them young
“Shooting can be taken up by kids from the age of 12 years and above. This is a young and exciting age, so instead of shooting boring standard targets, which most youngsters are never able to hit initially, I want to introduce colourful targets — like small animal cut-outs, cartoon characters, etc. The targets could fall off the line each time a kid hits it, adding to the excitement,” explained Shinde, who is a ‘C’ certified coach with world shooting body ISSF.
The idea seems to be working too, as this little anecdote suggests. “Once there was this young gentleman (trainee) whose wife wanted to desperately meet the instructor. When I asked her why, she said ‘my husband never wakes up before 10am otherwise, but ever since he’s joined your shooting classes, he’s up at 7am and off to the range. So, I came here to check because I thought his instructor must be an attractive woman’.
Unless you forge a fun bond between the subject and the gun, shooting will not succeed,” explained Shinde, a Shiv Chhatrapati Awardee who is also coach-cum-advisor of the state’s shooting body.
If enjoyed, shooting can be addictive and proof of this is former India cricketer and 1983 World Cup-winner Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who is a regular at the Wadala range, which is right next door to the cricket academy he heads. Sandhu agreed with every word Shinde uttered. “I’m hooked on to shooting because I’ve hit close to bullseye. Else, it’s easy to fail, get fed-up and quit,” he said.
Cheap & fun
Shinde is confident that will never happen at his five-lane air rifle range here, given the innovative curriculum he’s lined up. “The idea is to promote shooting as a cheap sport, and promoters Sports Gurukul MD Jay Shah has assured affordable access to the sport to ensure maximum people take to it. Today, we have one champion from a few 100-odd shooters in the city. If this number can swell to 10,000, it will mean more scope for producing Olympic champs like Bindra, (Gagan) Narang and Vijay (Kumar),” said Shinde.