Indian shooters will shine in Tokyo Olympics: Rahi Sarnobat

Updated: Mar 30, 2020, 07:46 IST | Subodh Mayure | Mumbai

Pistol champ Sarnobat believes postponement of Olympics to next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic offers country's 15-member shooting contingent ample time to plan better and hone individual skills

India pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat during a practice session at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune last year. Pic/GFetty Images
India pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat during a practice session at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune last year. Pic/GFetty Images

Tokyo Olympics-bound pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat is confident about the 15-member Indian shooting contingent's success at the Games that have been postponed to next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite a forced break from training due to the ongoing national lockdown, the Munich World Cup gold medalist felt that Team India will have enough time to prepare once normalcy is restored. The 25-metre pistol champ said that her fellow shooters needed just two months to get back on track and in form.

In an interview with mid-day, Sarnobat, 29, currently at her parents' home in Kolhapur, says that books have replaced the pistol for now as reading helps her deal with criticism in a positive manner.

Excerpts.

How tough is it to deal with this mandatory break due to the lockdown?
It's very difficult but the good thing is that we have sufficient time to start preparing again [for the Olympics]. It's not like the Olympics will begin immediately after the lockdown. As shooters, we are used to challenges, so I'm sure we will get through this too.

Shooter Rahi Sarnobat with her books at home in Kolhapur
Shooter Rahi Sarnobat with her books at home in Kolhapur 

How do you look at the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics?
As a team, we shooters get hardly any time to train together before the Olympics because the qualification process continues till the last four-five months before the Games. So, I feared that, had the Games been on schedule, we would not have got enough time to be ready for it. But now, as our final team of 15 shooters have qualified and there is almost a year to go for the Olympics, we have ample time to prepare. This is like a bonus period that we must utilise by planning better and improving our skills.

After this break, how much would you need to get back to your rhythm in training?
We will need a minimum of two months to get back on track and in rhythm. Though we are trying to keep up with some of the basic things like fitness and diet at home, the fact remains that we are unable to practise at our shooting ranges and that makes a difference in the end. This is a limitation that most shooters face and we have no option but to deal with it. But as we have already qualified for the Olympics, we don't have that added pressure of qualification. That's a
big positive.

You were the youngest Indian shooter at the 2012 London Olympics, and now you will be the most experienced of our 15-member Indian shooting team. How confident are you about yourself and the team's performance in Tokyo?
I always aim to give my best, whether it's a World Cup or the Olympics or even a practice session for that matter. So, Tokyo will be no different. As a team, we have this mindset that even if someone asks us to get up in the middle of the night and shoot, we'll do it. Besides, this time, at the Olympics, the Indian shooting team are ranked World No. 1 so that should give all 15 of us a lot of confidence as we pick up our guns in Tokyo. I'm sure the Indian shooters will put up an outstanding show in Tokyo next year.

How are you spending most of your time during this lockdown?
I always enjoyed reading books but due to my busy training and competition schedules, I hardly get time to read. So, this lockdown is a golden opportunity for me to catch up on my reading. I have a large collection of books. Currently, I'm reading two Marathi books—Sarth and Tantu written by of SL Bhyrappa. After this, I'll read two other books, Cheers and Sakhi written by VP Kale.

Does reading help in your shooting too?
Interestingly, it does. I have been shooting for the last 15 years. Initially, I was quite perturbed by people analysing and criticising us whenever we make mistakes. It's not easy to handle criticism especially when you know that you have always given your best. But I have realised that people are enttled to their opinions, and I should handle things better. Reading helps me handle criticism better. Books offer different perspectives and that helps you understand others. So, if I deal with things off the range in a better manner, I eventually end up shooting better too.

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