BENGALURU: In the last four months or so, 22-year-old Shailaja Patel (in pic) has featured in eight shooting competitions. The Swarnim Gujarat Sports University athlete clinched gold in the 10m air rifle women at the Khelo India University Games here on Tuesday, and you could see how her recent experiences helped her beat Atmika Gupta (16-12), who won silver in the 10m air rifle mixed team junior Worlds final last year, from Rajasthan Technical University in a high-scoring final.
These kinds of competitions like the KIUG play a very important role in the development of young shooters, who use it as an opportunity to gain further experience, but their main focus lies on the NRAI’s main trials and the nationals. Basically, they have around six trials and one national, which play an integral role in getting into the squad for the big-ticket events.
“It is important for us to perform in the trials and the nationals. The trials are spread across a longer period and you have to be consistent there. The ranking we get is not just from one tournament we do well, but others also, which makes it challenging. But it is such kinds of competition (like KIUG), where we need to do well and gain that much-needed experience for the other main events,” said the 20-year-old Gupta.
"So, it is all about being consistent. But with shooting being a mental sport, being on top of their game is not easy. You win some and lose some, but if you lose in the trials, it makes life difficult for the particular shooter. The shooters tend to train themselves for different situations and also take up psychology classes to help motivate themselves and prepare mentally."
“It is really difficult to maintain that kind of high consistency, but also, we have to remember that is what we have been training and striving for all the while. Featuring in many competitions can make it hectic, but it helps us learn too. Also, we try to give our body that rest, which is required as well,” Patel said. “From psychology classes, we have learned the importance of self-talk. It helps us prepare ourselves mentally and perform in tight matches too.”
Most of the shooters here at SAI Bengaluru are accompanied by their parents, who also travel for other meets. Despite being an expensive sport, Gupta’s father, who was also at the venue, said that he never puts pressure on their kid. “As a parent, there is always that pressure, but we never show that to her. See, all the great athletes have failed one time or the other and I always motivate her. For us, it is always a proud moment when we are walking on the road and someone says ‘see that is Atmika’s parents’,” said her father, an engineer by profession.