CHENNAI: Tejaswini Sawant has been shooting for many winters now. And she has been able to carry herself with distinction during the process. Just to put into context her longevity, emerging stars like Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Anish Bhanwala were not even born when she first held the rifle.
For the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the World Championship (2010), 2018 was a sort of a comeback year. The ace shooter from Kolhapur had asserted her class to bag Commonwealth Games gold (50m rifle 3 positions) with a record score. Just a day before that, she had pocketed silver in the 50m rifle prone (a non-Olympic event). “It was really good. I hope in 2019 and 2020 it gets better,” she says, keeping it crisp.
For a serial winner, she had undergone a long period of drought before that. The last time she had left a notable impression in the international circuit was in the same event in 2010. Family issues was a primary reason why she was not able to trigger the winning form displayed in the past. And with the sport gaining popularity and many youngsters making a strong case for themselves, she was pushed to the sidelines.
She had even mulled giving up the sport at some point, as it seemed a monumental task to earn a place in the team, let alone win a medal. But she persisted. She stuck to her guns and with the backing of her family and coach Kuheli Gangulee, she seems to be finding her mojo back. “Shooting is my passion. You experience ups and downs but you get to learn a lot. That gives me the hunger to keep going. That’s the biggest reason I’m still active,” the 38-year-old says.
That hunger was apparent when she went on to shoot down gold (50m rifle prone) in the Munich World Cup later that year. And those returns have instilled fresh belief in her as she chases her Olympic dreams. She is part of the team that will take part in the upcoming ISSF World Cup, beginning February 20 in Delhi, where Tokyo 2020 quotas will be on offer. “Everyone wants to win an Olympic medal. I want to better my personal best. I’m just focussed on my shooting.”
Tejaswini is one of the few seniors in a sport that has seen youngsters dominate the scene in India. The Arjuna awardee is happy to witness this. “It’s good that many juniors have come to the fore. And their rise has been meteoric. It’s good to see that the sport is becoming more popular. During our times, it was not the same. I was fortunate to have supportive family/friends. From what I have seen, there were many who had to fight with their parents to take up the sport. They had other hurdles too.”
Despite her talent, she has never made it to the Olympics. If she can achieve the same in Delhi, it would complete a remarkable turnaround.