NEW DELHI: Saurabh Chaudhary has become a household name in recent times, even though he has mostly featured in junior events till now. With his monk-like demeanour, he had captured multiple gold medals in 2018 including an Asian Games gold in men’s 10m air pistol. Incidentally, it was his first test at the senior level. Sunday was his first appearance at the ISSF World Cup. With two quota places on offer in his pet event, it was supposed to be a real test of his calibre. The end result: a gold medal yet again. That too, with a world record mark.
His focus was admirable during the finals. Though he had managed to build a massive lead early on, he continued to maintain the same intensity level and eventually finished 5.7 points ahead of his closest rival. The 16-year-old finished with a tally of 245, while his closest rival Mikec Damir of Serbia scored 239.3. Both earned a quota each for their respective nations. “It was my first World Cup at this level, that too at home,” Saurabh later reflected. “I knew I had a big lead. But I didn’t think too much about it and just looked ahead.”
The press conference afterwards was something that spoke volumes about his nature. It was sort of a rapid fire session with Saurabh barely giving away anything, responding in monosyllables. To him, it was just a plan well executed. Personal coach Amit Sheoran, who trains him in Benauli (around 53 kms away), tried to shed light on his mental makeup. “He has always been calm. He doesn’t like to talk much and leads a simple life. That’s how he was brought up and we try to ingrain that with anyone who joins us. Even after his Asian Games gold, we wanted him to celebrate. However, he would tell me that he would only celebrate after the Olympics,” he said.
During the finals, there were blips with hits under 10, a score which is considered below par by experts. But that didn’t bother him too much. “Nine laga toh phir uske bad usko bhool gaya. Bas aage dekha (When I shot nine, I forget about it immediately and concentrated on the next shot),” Saurabh said.
This habit of winning and experiencing new competitions has only made him stronger. “It has been a natural process. I have gained experience after participating in more competitions. That has helped improve my game.”
Saurabh now holds the world record in both senior and junior categories. Last year, he had shot a 245.5 in the junior section of the World Championships in Changwon. For Saurabh, however, these things never cross his mind. “If I had that in mind, maybe I would never managed to accomplish the same.”
Manu misses out
Manu Bhaker could not emulate Saurabh as she fell just short in the final of the women’s 25m pistol. Her inexperience was evident as she crumbled in the end to finish fifth. “I’m disappointed. I had expected to get two quotas today. I guess it’s a lack of experience that cost her. But she does have a second chance,” Pavel Smirnov, India’s pistol coach, said. Manu’s second chance is the women’s 10m air pistol on Tuesday. Veteran shooter Sanjeev Rajput and debutant Parul Kumar could not get past the qualifying hurdle in the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions.