GOLD COAST: As Anish Bhanwala walks around the Games Village, he resembles a student on a study trip. The baby fat is still visible, his smile is boyish and he likes chocolates. But there is a difference too. He has a quiet demeanour and has the ability to concentrate like a hermit. There’s no obsessive indulgence in social media.
At 15, when most boys are busy taking their board exams, Anish is representing India in shooting. He is precociously talented and has a sound head on his shoulders. At the Belmont Shooting Centre on Friday, he won gold in the 25m rapid fire and became the youngest gold medallist at the Games.
In fact, Anish started shooting with a laser gun — a contraption that shoots compressed air while maintaining the spectacle of sound. His skills are already making waves. He never took time to get accustomed to the new gun.
Even the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) relaxed norms for Anish to take part here. He has taken two exams and will take three more on April 16, 17 and 18. However, studies are the last thing he has done here. “I have to practice and there is no time to read,” he says. The school, federation and ministry helped him in requesting the CBSE to give him a special window for exams.
“I had to reschedule the remaining exams because of CWG and the Junior World Championships,” he says. He will return on April 15, take the exams before flying for the World Cup in Korea on April 19. He is literally living life out of a suitcase.
Before this trip, Anish appeared in two exams — English and science. Maths, Hindi and social studies are still left. Not a great lover of maths, he believes he will do well in other subjects. He harbours no tension either.
“Got a medal. I was more tensed by that,” he says. “The match was the real tension (laughs).” His preparation for the remaining exams has hardly been ideal. There are a lot of distractions at the Games Village. “Somehow I am managing to study in the room. I have not touched maths, only social studies and hindi,” he says.
But then, he can be excused if he doesn’t do too well. How many at his age have won gold at the Commonwealth Games?
“I practice at the Dr Karni Singh shooting area in Delhi and travel from Karnal every day,” he says. Not a mean task. He stormed into the national camp last year with exceptional results in the junior circuit. So far, he has been able to replicate it in the senior level. When asked about his rapid rise, he says one year is a long time. “Not a rapid growth. It’s been step by step. Since 2015, I have been doing well in rapid fire.”
However, national coach Jaspal Rana believes future success depends on how these kids handle fame and money. “It’s not easy if you get cash,” says Jaspal.
“There should be a policy where the money is put in such a way that it can be utilised properly. I can only control them when they are in the camp. Outside they are free.”
Results: Women’s 50m rifle 3 positions: Tejaswini Sawant gold, Anjum Moudgil silver. Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol: Anish gold, Neeraj Kumar 6th. Women’s trap: Shreyasi Singh 5th.