CHENNAI: IN 2015, when he left his family in Khargone and moved to the Madhya Pradesh State Shooting Academy in Bhopal, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar was too afraid to stay alone in his room. His cousin, Navdeep Singh Rathore, who inspired him to take the sport professionally and was a trainee of the academy by then, came to his rescue.
Ahead of the 14th Asian Championship in Doha, 19-year-old Tomar was in two minds and it was Rathore again, who saw him through the tricky position. He wanted to participate in junior events and win medals. But had he done so, he couldn’t have participated in the senior event and secured an Olympic quota. “I wanted to compete in 10m air rifle, 50m prone and 50m 3 positions but Navdeep bhaiya and my coach Suma Shirur advised me to go for the senior event and eye an Olympic quota,” Tomar told this daily from Doha.
The decision worked as Tomar on Sunday secured India’s 13th Olympic quota in shooting by bagging a bronze medal in men’s 50m rifle 3-positions. He shot 449.1 in the eight-man finals to finish third behind gold medallist Kim Jonghyun (459.9) of Korea and Chinese Zhonghao Zhao (459.1) at the Lusail Shooting Complex. He, along with Chain Singh and Parul Kumar, also finished third, winning a bronze in a team event.
“Navdeep bhaiya inspired me to become a shooter and taught me the basics. He always wanted to represent India in the Olympics but couldn’t do it. Now I can live his dreams,” added Tomar.
His father Veer Bahadur Singh Tomar is a farmer in Ratanpur village of Khargone district. “Aishwary has this fondness for guns since childhood. He used to shoot balloons at village fairs. With Navdeep pursuing shooting at the academy, it became easy for him to shift to a new place and follow his dreams,” Tomar senior said.
“It sounds funny now but he was afraid to stay alone in his room when he shifted to Bhopal four years ago. But look at him now. He is travelling to countries and winning medals without fearing anyone. He switched to rifle 3-positions in 2017 and I am happy he succeeded in bagging an Olympic quota after only two years,” Navdeep, who joined CISF as an inspector last year, said. “He is a teenager and was planning to compete in junior events in Doha. When he discussed it with me, I asked him to look for an Olympic quota by taking part in the senior event. His coach Suma also suggested the same and the move paid dividends,” added the shooter, who had finished eighth in 10m air rifle finals in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics.
In July, Tomar had shot down the men’s rifle 3-positions junior world record on his way to winning gold, helping the country top the medal tally in the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany. He is the second Indian, after veteran Sanjeev Rajput, to have booked the quota places in the 3-positions.