'Ela's Rio gold was planned in Suhl'
India's High-Performance junior rifle coach Suma Shirur reveals how a change in gameplan at last month's Jr World Cup in Germany led to Sr World Cup glory in Brazil
India's rifle shooter Elavenil Valarivan, 20, has come a long way — from the shooting hall at her school in Sanskardham, near Ahmedabad to the world-class range in Rio de Janeiro where she won her maiden senior World Cup gold in the 10m air rifle event on Wednesday. Valarivan shot 251.7 in the finals to win gold, ahead of Britain's Seonaid Mcintosh, (250.6) and Taipei's Ying-Shin Lin, who clinched bronze with 229.9. Valarivan has won a host of medals on the junior circuit, but to succeed on the senior stage in only her debut year, is extra special.
Interestingly, the seeds of this senior World Cup gold were sown last month, at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany, revealed India's High Performance junior rifle coach Suma Shirur. "At Suhl, I had a gameplan for Ela. I wanted her to shoot freely. I told her that this may be a Junior World Cup but she needed to focus on next month's Sr World Cup in Rio, so she should view this opportunity as a learning curve.
I told her that the Suhl event is the ideal place for her to experiment — maybe she could look at changing little things in her approach or style that she felt would work for her in Rio. She did that and ended up winning the gold medal. So, I believe that strategy and her approach in the Junior World Cup in Suhl was extremely useful in preparing her for this Sr World Cup," said Shirur, a former shooter, who won a historic gold medal in the 10m air rifle pairs event with Anjali Bhagwat at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
Valarivan's transition from the junior to senior level has taken some time, felt Shirur, but it's been worth the wait. "I've been with the junior team for over a year now and Elavenil came into the squad as a strong shooter. She began winning junior tournaments last year. She has taken some time to settle in at the senior level. I think it has taken her three World Cups, but this is a fine feat nevertheless. For a coach, the biggest achievement is when your ward goes on to win at the next level, so I'm most happy to see Ela excel on the senior circuit," added Shirur.
Team India has some top names in the women's 10m air rifle category, like World No. 1 Apurvi Chandela and No. 2 Anjum Moudgil both of whom Valarivan beat in Rio. Shirur puts the competition in perspective: "In the 10m air rifle event, we have four or five shooters who are good enough to win an Olympic medal. Anjum, Apurvi, Mehuli Ghosh and Ela are all world-beaters which means Indian shooting has a brilliant future."
'Elavenil loves imitating people'
Elavenil Valarivan is a picture of concentration while shooting, but off the range, the self-confessed foodie is a bundle of energy, says India's junior rifle coach Suma Shirur. "Ela is 20, but she's still a bubbly teenager," said Shirur, who has witnessed Valarivan's mischief: "Ela likes to imitate people. She imitated me once and did a fine job. She sounded exactly like me."
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