NEW DELHI: Christian Reitz of Germany is not your run-of-the-mill shooter, both in terms of his game as well as his nature. He is as bubbly as it comes, unlike many others who understandably tend to be poker-faced, especially ahead of major competitions.
In the aftermath of IOC’s decision to remove quota places from his pet event — men’s 25m rapid fire — the reigning Olympic champion is a tad disappointed, but he chooses to look at the brighter side. In a free-wheeling chat with this newspaper here at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, the 32-year-old spoke about how he got lucky at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and on Bundesliga, a premier competition in his country, which has helped him in his preparations. Excerpts...
On the International Olympic Comittee’s call to remove quotas
For us, it is an important competition. We have prepared for a long time and tested plenty of things last year. We wanted to show that here. It’s a bad situation now that the quota has been taken away. I’m a bit disappointed but that doesn’t mean this event is not important anymore. It’s preparation for the start of the season.
On his first Olympic success (won bronze in Beijing)
Beijing was a little bit lucky. The year before was my first year as a senior. Everyone was saying it would be impossible for me to go to the Olympics next year. In the beginning of 2008, the German shooting federation tweaked the rules. It was a bit complicated but somehow I managed to qualify. At the Games, I really didn’t understand what was happening. I was looking at the scoreboard at the end of the finals and I saw myself at No 3. I was still unsure. Then
my colleague came up and congratulated me. It was unbelievable.
On his 2012 setback and redemption in 2016
The 2012 final was horrible (rapid fire). But I did quite okay in free pistol (50m pistol). After 24 years, it was the first time a German shooter was in the final of that event. I had hoped to win a medal but I could not quite achieve it. But it was a positive experience. In 2016, I was one of the favourites. I had felt good going into the tournament. I was going for a medal this time. I did make a few mistakes during the finals, but I kept reminding myself that I could do better next shot. I was so focussed on myself that I didn’t realise how others were doing. I managed to build up quite a gap and won. It was a great moment. Given the fact that I also managed to equal the Olympic record (final and qualification), it was even better.
Advantages of having a spouse (Sandra Reitz) who is also a shooter
We try to avoid talking about shooting at home. During training, it is good to have her company. It’s boring to train alone. There are days you don’t feel like training at all. But then the other person can push you to train. Most of our shooters are in different parts of Germany.
On popularity (or lack of) of shooting in Germany
Other German shooters know me. Apart from that, I’m far from popular. The biggest sport is of course football. After a big gap, there’s maybe sports like handball, hockey and tennis. Before the start of the Olympics, we are in focus. But after two or three weeks, it’s back to normal. After Rio, it has changed a little bit. Now, more information is available for World Cups. Even the European Championships are shown on TV. People outside shooting now get a chance to follow it.
On Bundesliga (shooting league)
The Bundesliga model has been working for a long time. It has brought many shooters from outside. There’s loud music and the crowd is also quite loud. The number of shots is also lesser. A good shooter with World Cup and World Championship success may not necessarily do well there and similarly a good league shooter is not guaranteed to achieve international success. I participate because I’m associated with a club since 2005. For me it’s like a great training ground. I can test all aspects of my shooting there, mental and physical.
On Indian shooters
Indian shooters have become stronger over the last four years or so. Seven-eight years ago, you would have spotted just one or two rifle shooters from the country. Now, they have good shooters across all sections.