NEW DELHI: Laszlo Szucsak is quietly seated in the front row of the 50m range, his eyes fixed on his ward Lea Horvath. “She knows I’m here and that I’m watching her,” the veteran coach says. “If something is going wrong, I must find out. Mostly, it’s not technical at this stage, it’s all mental,” the soft-spoken 68-year-old adds.
Everything goes smoothly as Horvath does enough to enter the qualification stage of the 50m rifle 3 positions at the ongoing ISSF World Cup at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range on Sunday.
Here with the Hungary national team, the coach is a well-known figure in the shooting circuit. Also, this range is not foreign to the rifle coach, who had countless sessions here during his double stint as India coach (1998-2000 & 2004-09). He tries to jog back his memory and remember his days here. “The roof was low and it would get very hot. Sometimes we would come in very early around 7 am and continue training until somebody collapsed.”
That level of dedication under his watch had helped Indian shooters break barriers, touch figures they had never done before. Anjali Bhagwat, Gagan Narang, Abhinav Bindra, to name a few, had found a fresh edge. Those shooters still look up to him with respect. It was Laszlo who had handpicked Tejaswini Sawant after getting a glimpse of her talent during the Mavlankar Championship at Asansol in 2001, where she had finished fifth. “It was very interesting. The 10m shooting range was dark and dingy and there were electric failures every half-an-hour. I had seen her for the first time. I asked the federation to take her as soon as possible.”
With the NRAI being proactive and many ex-shooters taking up coaches’ hat, India seem to be on the right path. Former shooters like Jaspal Rana, Deepali Deshpande, Joydeep Karmakar, Suma Shirur, Kuheli Ganguly and Manoj Kumar have played a vital role in shaping young minds and building a solid base.
London Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang’s contribution is also well documented with his Gun for Glory initiative producing many talents. Laszlo feels that this is one of the main factors which has aided India’s rise over the last few years. “I strongly feel these former shooters, many of whom are into coaching, deserve a lot of credit. They are doing it exceptionally well. They are all proven talents and that makes a vital difference,” he says.
The coach is also delighted to see strong backing for shooters here. “If somebody is talented, they will most probably get backing. There are cases in many countries where world champs don’t have sponsors. But here in India, it is a good environment for a shooter.”
But it is not the same where he is presently working. Despite limitations, Hungary has always been a competitive force at the top level. They are currently leading the medal standings, having won two gold medals through Istvan Peni and Veronika Major in the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions and 25m pistol events, respectively.
“We have a few clubs raising the shooters but we try to work on what we have. It is difficult to work with limited resources. Also, the salary is not that high for shooters to sustain themselves. Luckily, we have good shooters.”
Having also worked in countries like Malaysia, Japan and Iran, the man, who has been coaching for around three decades, knows what it takes to become a champion shooter. He believes fearlessness and self-belief is a must in order to stand out from the crowd.
“Being brave is crucial, with every shot, you’re taking a risk. If somebody does not trust themselves, then they are prone to make mistakes. But if you take a confident approach, you’re bound to be a success.”