JAKARTA: Touch. Feel. Hold. Pull. Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, broke down shooting to the above-mentioned four words. On Tuesday, a 16-year-old from Kalina, a village in Meerut, broke it down further in simpler terms. Stand. Aim. Shoot. Win. In the process, Saurabh Chaudhary, who won gold in the men’s 10m air pistol category, not only conquered Asia but rewrote India’s record books. For starters, he became the country’s youngest- ever individual gold medallist at the Asian Games across all disciplines. This is also only the fifth time that an Indian shooter has won gold at this level. Son of a landed farmer based in Kalina, Saurabh also dabbles in farming whenever he is home.
Such is his dedication, he even installed a target in his own bedroom! What was even more remarkable was his clutch shooting at the end. While the Indian was shooting in Lane B, Jin Jong-oh was shooting from Lane A in the final. Jong-oh, the 38-year-old veteran, was a multiple Worlds, Olympic and Asian Games champion by the time Choudhary first touched a gun. Saurabh had genius breathing down his neck but did not crack.
When push came to shove, Jong-oh left the stage with four shooters remaining. Two more bit the dust, including senior compatriot Abhishek Verma, a full 13 years older. This left Chaudhary and Japan’s Tomoyuki Matsuda to fight it out for gold. This was when it suddenly struck the junior world record holder. In his first ever senior tournament, he was fighting one of his idols for a shot at history. Matsuda isn’t as famous as Jongoh but the 42-year-old is a legend in his own right. Three Asiad bronze, eighth at the Olympics, two Worlds gold, five World Cup medals... you get the drift. Before the last sequence of shots, Matsuda led the Indian by 0.4 points (220.5 and 220.1).
Pressure? Yep, but it was Matsuda who was beginning to sweat. He shot an 8.9 while Saurabh shot a 10.2. Just to make a statement, he followed that up with a 10.4 to win with a Games Record of 240.7. It called for a celebration, right? No, not for this monk who doesn’t do celebrations. “No reason really,” he said after his feat. “I just don’t celebrate. I didn’t celebrate my junior World Cup win so this will also be the same thing I think. Maybe something may happen in the village once I go back but that’s about it.” How’s the scene back in Kalina? Happy would be an understatement. “The entire village is delighted. Our tiny village has gained global recognition thanks to him,” Nitin, his brother, told Express.
The villagers have even started referring to him as ‘Modiji’ because of his frequent foreign sporting trips! The village was a big influence on Saurabh picking shooting as a career; even though he only picked up a gun for the first time in 2014. “He was always fond of shooting. There were three-four shooters from our village, that’s how he got influenced,” Nitin explained. However, his initial steps into the sport resembled an obstacle course. “It’s very costly.
We had taken a few loans in order to cater to his needs but my parents have been very supportive.” His coach, Amit Sheoran from the Veer Samal Rifle Club in Baghpat, remembers a quiet boy who practiced shooting for up to seven hours every day. “He will listen to instructions and will apply what he has learned. To dedicate seven to eight hours is not easy. One is literally like a statue and needs mental strength. He has stayed away from other recreational activities.” Sheoran, who met him in 2014, signed him up soon after. “When he got a medal at the youth nationals in 2015, I signed him up for three categories — youth, junior and senior.”