CHENNAI: Seasoned shooter Sanjeev Rajput has experienced a fair share of adversities in his life — both on the professional and personal front. Being ignored for Olympics despite winning a quota last time around was one of the biggest blow.
What’s worse, he’s been accused of sexual harassment, the lowest of low for someone who has always maintained his innocence. That cost him a job that provided steady income.
But despite all this, the Haryana man has stood firm, taking everything in his stride. He made his rifle do the talking on multiple occasions. “I just give my 100 per cent every time. I never lost belief.”
On Thursday, the former navy man’s belief helped him gun down a silver in 50m rifle 3 positions and secure an Olympic quota in the ISSF World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. “I’m relieved to win a quota. Now, I have to be more focussed and prepare strongly,” the 38-year-old told this daily. This was India’s eighth quota so far.
This arrived after a rather quiet 2019. After a fruitful 2018, where he won Commonwealth Games gold and bagged silver in Asiad, he had shifted focus to Olympic qualification. New Delhi was his first stop. In familiar conditions, it was a grand opportunity. But he could not find his rhythm. Beijing, the following World Cup, was another outing to forget.
But just when it would seem like his struggles would get the better of him, he brings his A game to the table. A regular occurrence that has established the fact that he can’t be written-off. “I’d worked hard for this (quota), focussed on my physical fitness. I had increased my timing for all this. I also had finals training, shooting under pressure situation.”
One of the senior most members of the national team, the two-time Olympian’s regular international hits has helped him stay relevant in a sport taken over by youngsters.
Years of experience has taught him to be patient. He knew his chance would come. He had saved the best for last (World Cup). The silver medal on Thursday came after plenty of drama. He was awarded zero for a shot during the qualification stage for no fault of his. Following a successful appeal after a scoring equipment malfunction, he made the finals cut in second spot. There, gold seemed certain with three shots left. But a final shot of 8.8 let him down. Petar Gorsa of Croatia won gold, just .2 ahead. “It was quite stressful. There was lot of pressure but in the end, the overall experience was great. Bada maja aaya.”
Gold for Verma
Abhishek Verma won his second World Cup gold of the year in the men’s 10m air pistol on Thursday. Teen sensation Saurabh Chaudhary had to settle for bronze finishing behind Ismail Keles of Turkey. Both had helped India secure a maximum of two quotas earlier.