NEW DELHI: Apurvi Chandela left many dumbfounded on Saturday. The Jaipur girl herself couldn’t believe what she had just accomplished. Having earned an Olympic quota for India last year, she just wanted “to put her best foot forward” at the ISSF World Cup, that is currently taking place in the city. Instead, she took a giant leap, winning the women’s 10m air rifle final with a world-record score.
In the eight-woman final at Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Apurvi put up a performance that will be long remembered by the sizeable crowd that kept egging her on right from the start.
She did take her time to bed in. But after getting her grip right, Apurvi quickly made her way up, shooting 252.9 to better the 252.4 set by China’s Zhao Ruozhu last year. “I’m thrilled. I did not expect this. Not at all,” said Apurvi after her win.
Apurvi’s qualifying sheet wasn’t out of the blue. She’d done just enough to qualify fourth with 629.3, way behind Zhao’s score of 634 (a qualification world record).
But what worked in Apurvi’s favour was her desire to improve; she’d done plenty of homework for this event. “My aim was to just follow my technique. Same goes today. I was focussed on each shot.”
That intent was evident in the final. Taking her time before executing shots, she ended up with an average of 10.5 in the 24-shot final. But this success has come after misfortunes. Despite being one of the best shooters in recent years, Apurvi used to inadvertently fall just short in the finals. Nerves got the better of her in high-pressure situations, something that was on display when she slipped from first to fourth in the Munich World Cup last May.
Apurvi had taken mental notes of that shortcoming, and put in a lot of work to get rid of those nerves. “It’s been a bit tough. I have been practising a lot. There’s a lot more to work on; a lot of important competitions ahead. I look forward to bettering this performance.”
Her mother Bindu Chandela, who was present in the crowd, is a proud woman. Formerly a national-level basketball player, Bindu said that her association with sport has helped her understand Apurvi’s needs. She also revealed that Apurvi has been training with Rakesh Manpat when she is not on national duty. They travel to Bengaluru every alternate month to do the same. Both have been vital to her overall development.
“I don’t keep expectations from her,” remarked Bindu. “Moreover, her Rio Olympics experience has made her wiser. Now, she knows what is expected of her and has learnt to handle pressure well.”
For Rakesh, who has known Apurvi since 2011, this gold didn’t really come as a surprise. “For a long time, she has been performing consistently at many World Cups. That is not an easy task. She was able to control her nerves in a high-quality final. That stands apart.”
Increased competition in the national circuit has also raised Apurvi’s game. Plenty of youngsters have made a strong impression, leaving former champs in the shadows. “All of them coming up is really good. It pushes me further. I can’t settle for any score. I have to keep pushing.”