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Narang on a comeback trail in 10m air rifleGagan Narang is not losing sleep over missing the Asian Games bus this time. After winning five medals (two silver and three bronze) in two Asian Games, the ace shooter will not participate in the Indonesia mega event which starts from August 18.Narang cited rule changes as one of the main reasons for not taking part in the Asian Games for the first time. He is the No.1 and No. 2 in prone (50m three-position and 50m) in the country but unfortunately this event has not been included in the Asian Games. The ace shooter, who is making a comeback in 10m air-rifle event, is No.3 in this event in the country and as there are no team events, he does not find a place in the team. “After Olympics, I did not focus much in prone as I wanted to make a comeback in 10m air rifle event in which I won the bronze medal in London Olympics. After a long time, I’m back in air rifle event now.’’The Hyderabad-based shooter said in a way he stands to gain by missing the Asian Games as he will be able to focus for World Championship which will be held from August 31 to September 15 at Changwon in Korea. “I’m going to the World Championship, which is immediately after the Asian Games. For me, it was beneficial as back-to-back events could have been difficult for a shooter to handle.’’Narang said this World championship is very important as it will be qualification tournament to 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I have one medal and the shooting World championship is held once in four years unlike badminton. The World Championship is much tougher than Olympics. The top shooters come and there are three members in the team. This meet is also the Olympic qualification for 2020 Games.’’The 35-year-old Narang owes his comeback to 10m air-rifle event to coach Anton Balak of Slovakia. “I have been working with Balak and he is instrumental in my comeback in 10 air-rifle event. My target is Tokyo Olympics.’’Starting his journey in the 90s, Narang said the game of shooting has come a long way in the country. “It is more than two decades since I got into big-time shooting. When I look back, I feel there are a lot of improvements since then. But it amazes me how we could achieve medals with limited resources those days. Now there is more of sports awareness and there is technology to help shooters. The shooters have become sharp, mentally and physically. We used to struggle to import the pellets and it is now much easier.’’He admitted the Delhi Commonwealth Games was definitely the high point of his career. ”I won six gold medals and it ranks at the top of the list. I also got 600 out of 600 and my international journey started in Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in 2003, ’’ signed off Narang whose dream project, the Pune-based Gun For Glory has given a platform for many shooters to learn and excel from this academy.
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GFG’s para shooter Swaroop Ulhankar to represent IndiaGun for Glory shooting academy’s Swaroop Manohar Ulhankar has been selected in an 11-member squad to represent India at the IPC Shooting World Cup in Bangkok from November 5.The Kolhapur-based para shooter came into the reckoning for his gold medal-winning performances at the recent nationals and his fine showing earlier in the KSS Competition conducted by the Paralympic Committee of India.Swaroop, who trains under the head coach of GFG Anton Belak in Project Leap, will participate in the 10m Air Rifle Standing and Prone Competitions. He is confident of a good showing, especially as he has been training with the best equipment and that too under the guidance of the some of the best coaches.“It’s been about four years that I have been training at the GFG and I have been steadily improving. Coach Anton Belak and Yuniatri Iliyas before him have worked on my shooting and I feel a lot more confident now, ” an elated Swaroop said.He was particularly thankful for Narang’s presence at the Academy.“As I am a disabled person, I couldn’t find a coach in my initial days. But Gagan Sir didn’t have any qualms about taking me under his wings and his support and tips have motivated me to do a lot more, ” he added.He explained that Narang made him focus on prone shooting and also gave him tips on how to concentrate better while shooting.“Whenever I saw him at our practice sessions, I saw immense talent in him and I wanted to help him in any way I could. I am glad my advice has improved him and we will continue to leave no stone unturned to help him achieve his dreams, ” Narang, the man behind the GFG initiative, said about his pupil.
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Know your legend: Sanjay Chakravarty, the man who has given India some of its finest shooting stars.In his 40-year coaching career, the Dronacharya awardee, has helped guide champion shooters like Anjali Bhagwat and Gagan Narang among others.Shooting coach Sanjay Chakravarty continues to mutter something under his breath everytime a young rifle shooter at the Veer Sawarkar shooting range in Mumbai takes a shot and then tries to analyse his effort by looking at the target card.“You have to study your own position and not the shot to become a better shooter, ” he tells this correspondent. “The target doesn’t move, its your body that moves, ” the 76-year-old exclaims.The youngster probably wasn’t aware that he was training in the presence of a former India international, who is credited with producing some of India’s finest marksmen.Chakravarty is wondering whether to walk up and talk to the youngster.In a coaching career that has spanned over 40 years, Chakravarty has molded careers of many such youngsters and made them into champion shooters.Anjali Bhagwat, Deepali Deshpande, Anuja Tere (now Jung) and then Suma Shirur and London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang are just a few who have trained under Chakravarty.Born in Uttar Pradesh, Chakravarty began his shooting career only after joining the Indian Navy. Though he represented India in quite a few international events, coaching proved to be his true calling.He doesn’t quite remember the number of players he has worked with in these years. “I never had an academy set up, it was not easy to keep a tab on the number of shooters who trained under me, ” he reasons.There are some number, though, which cannot be forgotten. Between them, his wards have so far won over 100 international medals, including a dozen podium finishes at the Commonwealth Games and a number of them at the World Cup.Building foundation for shootingSpeaking recently at a gathering of national-level shooters, Bhagwat recalled how tips from a senior shooter during a shooting camp kick-started her journey to becoming one of India’s premier shooters.“We had gone to the Worli shooting range as part of our NCC shooting course, ” Bhagwat said. “We were really really struggling when one senior shooter walked up to us to give tips and that is how it all started, ” she added.That senior shooter was Chakravarty, who was then part of the Services team.As a senior shooter, Chakravarty was also helping the team members at the range when he saw a group of young girls practicing and felt they had the spark to become good shooters.“I played for India but I always wanted to take up coaching, ” says Chakravarty.“After working with Anjali, Deepa and others felt like they had the spark to do something special, ” he explained.The technical know-how about the sport wasn’t as advanced in India as it is today. Chakravarty was first few who helped bring in professionalism and built the foundation of success for the youngsters on hard work and self-realisation of their strengths and weaknesses.“It was a very important role he played in our lives because we started in those days when everything was so unprofessional, ” recalls Bhagwat. “I didn’t know at the time that such a sport existed in the world and that it’s played at the international level.“We started from scratch. The knowledge which Sanjay sir also had was very limited. We actually grew together. That work was very important. And due to him, our basics are very strong, ” says Bhagwat, adding the coach was a very hard task master and that helped them stay focused.“We started and everywhere we had problems. We had problems in equipment, accessories, no ammunition, no ranges. We used to practice (for 50m events) by cutting our targets of that size and putting it on the 25 metres. In those conditions, we have started. But the only thing why we could survive was the push and a strong faith in our skill and capability and our calibre which Sanjay Sir gave us, ” she adds.Wry sense of humourApart from this, Chakravarty boasted of strong communication skills. His style of using sense of humour to drive home the point or motivate the players, stood out.Explaining the way he dealt with situations, Suma Shirur says, “Once we had gone for a Nationals. And it was an open-sight Nationals. I had to qualify for the nationals... I won the gold and I did fantastic. And then immediately I had to go for the nationals. So I went a high note and I was like ‘Wow, I’m in the nationals and I can do it.’“So I went to the match and my rifle broke. My cylinder started leaking. So I was shooting and the shots were dropping. I didn’t know what was happening. They tried to repair it, it didn’t work. But I just kind of hung on. I finished my match and I came out and I was so disappointed. It was a disaster. But I couldn’t see Sir anywhere. I’m like ‘Where’s Sir? Can’t find him anywhere.’“And then I went out, and I saw Sir sitting under a tree smoking. Sir is a chain smoker. He was sitting under the tree smoking, and I went there and I could’ve just started crying. But sir very calmly just told me ‘Thank God, this was not the Olympics.’ That one line just changed everything. That one line made me forget about what happened. That one line instilled that confidence in me despite the failure that I can do it. It’s the one line that defined my future and it was then on it was only the Olympics that was in my mind, ” said Shirur, who reached the 10m Air Rifle final in the 2004 Athens Olympics.The 76-year-old insists his focus as a coach was to let the players understand themselves and he felt that all technical adjustments had to be worked around that knowledge. “If you know your body properly, if you are say about 5 feet 2 inches in height, you should know what 5 feet 2 inches is properly. If you know, you can stop (control the movement of the body while shooting) it. And if you can stop it, you’re world number one. It’s very simple, ” says Chakravarty.That is precisely why even when he was part of the national squad, Chakravarty made it a point not to try and change the techniques of any players, who were not directly working with him as that would only confuse them.Gunning for gloryEven when he later joined the Gagan Narang’s Gun for Glory academy in Pune, it was with the motivation to work with younger shooters. He mostly concentrated on helping them understand the nitty-gritties and motivated them to go the extra yard.“He would normally call us to the room, chat with us, make us read motivational books after training and try to prepare us for next day’s sessions, ” says Shriyanka Sadangi, who represented India in many junior internationals while she was training in Pune.At 76, Chakravarty doesn’t travel much but makes it a point to come and sit at the Savarkar centre once a week to just watch youngsters shoot.“I did not marry. Shooting was everything for me, ” says Chakravarty. “It still feels good when I come and sit hear. Not many of these shooters know me but I am happy to come and watch, ” says the coach, who helped build Mumbai’s first 10 metre shooting range outside the Maharashtra Rifle Association facility at the Ruia college.His students held a special function to felicitate him when he turned 75 and then collectively nominated him for a Dronacharya Award which he received in August last year. While Chakravarty is happy to be conferred the honour, he insisted he never thought a lot about it.“Once you keep on working, I don’t think you see towards that. Because you are so busy with the players and even if you’re not coaching them, you know he can still become an international but I’m not coaching him. You see that also is a journey. So award - reward doesn’t come (to mind) because it doesn’t give me anything. Just a few rupees for smoking purposes, ” he adds.The award, however, has rekindled his interest in coaching and if anyone approaches him, he says he is once again ready to start from scratch and help produce another champion shooter.
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Ahmedabad girl shoots WR equaling score in National trialsWhen junior rifle shooter Elavenil Valarivan, 18, took the field to compete in the seniors trials on Tuesday, she had no idea she was going to shoot a world-record equaling score.Participating in only her fourth senior match, all Elavenil wanted to score well, but the Ahmedabad girl finished with a final score of 252.1 to win women’s 10m air rifle gold. She defeated her experienced senior Elizabeth Koshi (247.7) by 4 points, while Rio Olympics participant Ayonika Paul finished third with 226.1.Elavenil equaled the current senior world record which was created by China’s Shi Mengyao in the New Delhi World Cup in January this year. The record was made after new Final rules came into effect from January 1 this year. Although, Elavenil’s score will not be considered official by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) as unless a score is shot at a world-level or continental competition, it is not considered official.Nonetheless, the Gujarat shooter is happy with her match. “I didn’t think too much about the scores, I wanted to shoot well. I am glad I did well to win the first place, ” Elavenil, who is a part of Gagan Narang’s Gun For Glory academy’s Project Leap, said.Having started shooting only three years ago, Elavenil had to slow down considering she had to appear for the standard 12 boards exam. “I had opted for science in 12th and couldn’t spend time on shooting. The only time I had was early in the morning, so I used to get up at 4 am and start training at 5.30 am. But now the boards exam are over and I am focusing on getting a place in the Indian senior team, ” Elavenil, who made it to the India juniors squad this year, told TOI from Ahmedabad.
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