CHENNAI: During the Asia Olympic Shooting qualifiers early last year, Saniya Shaikh had scripted a highly positive tale. Saniya’s instinctive dexterity with the shotgun came to the fore as she caught the eye of many. Gunning down escaping pigeon clays with aplomb, she was close to achieving an unexpected Olympics quota for India.
Unfortunately for Saniya, she missed out on the finals. “Having gotten past tough qualifiers, I was crushed to miss out on the finals. I had gun malfunction then. But post that event, I sat down and had a chat with my dad. Looking at the bigger picture, I felt I had done well. I was highly encouraged by that performance,” she recalls.
It was such a performance that everyone was lauding coach Ennio Falco, the force behind Saniya & Co. It was a shot in the arm for skeet, a discipline which was once condemned to obscurity in the country.
Fast forward, the India No 1 is geared up for her next international assignment — the ISSF World Cup, which will start from February 24 in New Delhi. Having spent hours polishing her skills behind the scenes, the Meerut girl is gunning for a positive result yet again.
“I have been working hard for this. This is a fresh start so I’m hopeful that I can bring my best game,” says the 24-year-old.
Shooting comes naturally to Saniya. Her dad is a former national-level shooter while her grandfather was a revered hunter. In fact, her cousin Sheeraz Shaikh is also part of the national team.
When her father introduced her to the sport at 13, it was easy for her to fall in love with the sport. “I already had a platform. I had all the facilities. So I just need to put my head down and work hard. I’m blessed that my family, especially my father, is really supportive.”
After gaining experience in the national and international circuit, Saniya, who idolises Olympic champ Chiara Cainero, is determined to help bolster the swelling profile of skeet. “Our level has really gone up. We never had a coach like Falco in the past. The pointers that he gives are vital. He instills confidence in us. All the shooters are positive.”
With the Tokyo Olympics in mind, Saniya is looking to pick her events wisely, to hit a consistent run. “I discussed with the coach. I will not participate in all the World Cups. I will try to improve my scores/average in the events that I participate in. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes patience. Next year will be important as the Olympic qualifiers will start,” she signs off.