THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:At a time when her friends were playing with stuffed dolls, a 10-year-old Malaika Goel learnt to load bullets into a pistol.
Six years later, while her peers are still attending school, the Ludhiana girl was on a podium at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Malaika shot to fame by winning silver in the women’s 10 metre air pistol event in Glasgow and attracted attention from the shooting community world over. But the shooter, now 17, said the expectations have only made her stronger.
“There is definitely pressure from the outside. But my family, friends, colleagues and coach have all been very supportive,” Malaika, who is representing Punjab at the 35th National Games, told TNIE on Wednesday. She is someone who always sees the positive side of things. “The expectations have forced me to train even harder and perform even better.”
“The Commonwealth Games was a platform that very few get in their careers and I had to make sure that I performed to my best,” said the Amritsar-born shooter of her surprise medal, where she negotiated challenges from top shooters including compatriot Heena Sidhu.
Despite being on a high after Glasgow, Malaika also takes the disappointments at the 2014 Asian Games and the national championships in the right spirit.
“I’m as determined as ever right now and want to get the season off to a good start here,” said the markswoman who will compete here from January 7.
Daughter of a police officer, it was natural for Malaika to get into shooting. “From childhood, I was surrounded by gunmen and tried out shooting when I was in sixth grade,” she reveals.
A week later, her dad began constructing a shooting range at her home, where she has practiced ever since under coach Gurjeet Singh. “There was always potential in her, which was confirmed when she began winning medals in national events from 2011,” said Gurjeet, a Punjab sports department coach. “It’s great to see her winning medals at such a young age, but I think she still has a long way to go and lots of room for improvement,” the coach added.
Malaika, meanwhile, is confident about the challenges ahead. “I don’t want to think of the Olympics right now. I just want to do my best here and then the national championships and trials,” she concluded.