CHENNAI: Huge achievements are almost always followed by the protagonist in question sleeping like a baby. But for skeet shooter Mairaj Khan it was not the case. The man who bagged a historic silver medal on Sunday in the ISSF World Cup in Rio is on top of the world.
Mairaj had a long and sleepless night. Not because of the weather, not in Rio. “I could not sleep. I was only thinking about what I had managed to achieve. The phone buzzing with a lot of congratulatory messages didn’t help my case,” the first-time WC medallist in skeet, says with a smile.
The fact that he beat two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion Vincent Hancock from Italy was what made it more fulfilling. “I’m really happy. To beat two-time world champion is an achievement in itself.”
It was only last year when he had stamped his class to beat Hancock (shootout) and confirm his ticket to Rio — a first for an Indian skeet shooter. His positive attitude has helped him raise his game.
“If a shooter gives his/her 90 per cent, you can’t complain. I always believe in giving my 100 per cent. Even if I’m losing, I don’t lose heart and give up. I want to end on a high ahead of the next competition,” the 41-year-old says.
But before he came to limelight, Mairaj had endured many struggles. A shooter, who has been practising the sport since 1998, was considered a nobody then. “The Incheon Asian Games (2014) performance gave me belief that I can rub shoulders with the best. Though I could manage a podium finish, making cut for the finals was really a confidence booster.”
His rapid improvement has not gone unnoticed. “There was this guy (shooter), who wrote me off saying a skeet shooter from India stands no chance. But now, that person has more respect for us. He considers us as a tough competition.”
Mairaj is keen to build on this performance. Under the close watch of Italian coach Ennio Falco, he has been training in Italy to have an Olympic medal around his neck. “The place where I train is really peaceful. It’s an ideal place for shooters.”
Mairaj is also hopeful that this feat will spur youngsters. “The youngsters are also coming up well. They are doing fine. Hopefully, this silver medal will spur them to win more medals in future.”