Asiad medal-winning shooter says his strict training regime helped him clinch gold at Incheon
Even as many fancied shooters stumbled at the recently-concluded Incheon Asian Games, Jitu Rai proved to be a class apart, adding the men's 50m pistol gold medal to the five medals he has won since June this year.
Jitu Rai after been felicitated by OGQ brand ambassador Saif Ali Khan at CCI yesterday
These five medals include a silver at the Munich World Cup (10m pistol), a 50m silver and a 10m gold at the Maribor World Cup, a 50m Commonwealth Games gold at Glasgow and a 50m World Championships silver.
While the taxing shooting calendar probably posed a challenge for most shooters' concentration levels, Rai says it was his physical and mental fitness that kept him in good stead at Incheon.
"In the army, there is a fitness regime that we follow. Apart from that, I run five kilometres every evening. If I do not run that distance, my day feels incomplete.
I run a lot to keep fit. With Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) coming into play, I have mental trainers to make me headstrong.
I don't believe in going to the gym and working out," the 27-year-old, who is a Naik Subedar in Indian Army's 11 Gorkha Regiment, said on the sidelines of an event held by OGQ to felicitate the Asiad medal winners under their wing at Cricket Club of India yesterday.
P.N Prakash (extreme left), Rahi Sarnobat Heena Sidhu, Saif, Shweta Chodhary, Rai and Sanjeev Rajput (extreme right). Pic/Bipin Kokate
Praising Rai, OGQ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Viren Rasquinha said, "Unlike other shooters who have problems with their back and neck, Jitu is absolutely fit.
The shooters start getting pain in these regions as they are practicing for more than eight hours every day and lack fitness. We advise other OGQ shooters to take cue from him and look to work on their fitness."
Despite his consistent run this year, Rai rues the fact that he failed to win a medal in 10m event at Incheon which he says is his pet event.
"I was in the top two during the finals of the 10m event but when the South Korean (gold medalist Kim Cheong-yong) struck a 10.9, the entire arena burst into celebrations. I lost my rhythm due to the noise emanating from the crowd.
It was difficult to get back after that. Or else, I was sure of winning my second medal," said the Nepal-born Rai, who is currently ranked World No 3 in the 50m pistol and No 4 in the 10m category.
Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan, who was named the brand ambassador of OGQ yesterday, pledged to give R 20 lakhs every year to the non-profit organisation.
On his association with OGQ, he said, "We live in a country of great inequality. Some of us have a lot and others don't. It is really unfair when somebody who has talent doesn't get the backing.
You need more than talent to get to the top of anything. An Olympic medal requires lot of infrastructure, lot of financial support. I pledge to give R 20 lakhs per annum till the Olympics and also further." Apart from the sum, the actor said that he would try and raise more money through fund-raisers.
Saif recalled how his father, the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a former India captain, worked for the betterment his teammates.
"I've seen my father working for players' rights in those days when they were paid as low as Rs 100 for one Test match. I look to bring about a similar change."