Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar shot 462.5 to edge past the World No 1 Istvan Peni in the final to take the top spot on the podium in the 50m rifle 3 Position event at the ISSF World Cup. It was his first individual gold medal at a senior World Cup.
"Since coming out of the lockdown, he was shooting better with every competition," the High-Performance Specialist Coach of the Junior Indian Rifle Shooting Team, Suma Shirur, told the Olympic Channel.
"He shot 1182 in the trials and then 1185 in the all-India university championships. In the World Cup, his score was not very high but scores overall were low at the (50m) 3 Position events. That's because of the very tough outdoor conditions. It was extremely windy on that day. But hanging in there and performing the way he did showed maturity beyond his years. Coming out and winning the finals was phenomenal," Shirur added.
Having turned 20 in February, Aishwary is also the youngest Indian in history to win a shooting World Cup gold in the 3 Positions event. He was the only one from India to win an individual gold in a rifle event at the New Delhi World Cup.
The Indian shooters raked in a record haul of medals at the New Delhi World Cup. With a total of 30 medals, including 15 gold, this was their best performance at a World Cup.
Apart from being Aishwary's personal coach, Shirur, a former Commonwealth Games gold medalist, also guides the junior Indian Rifle Shooting Team. She has shaped the careers of Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary, as both of them progressed through the juniors and have gone on to clinch Olympic quota places for India.
Divyansh won a bronze in the 10m Air Rifle individual event while he and Elavenil Valarivan also claimed gold in the 10m Air Rifle mixed team event. Divyansh, Aishwary and Deepak Kumar won the silver medal in the Air Rifle men's team event. Aishwary also combined with Sunidhi Chauhan to win bronze in the 50m 3P mixed team event.
"I am extremely happy for Aishwary and Divyansh, because they are the only ones who won individual medals. That is what we need, and that is what is important when you think of the Olympics. You have mixed team events but not team events at the Olympics, in the air weapon. But presently we don't have a quota in the mixed team. Winning individual medals was very important," said Shirur.
"Divyansh has shown exemplary performance before lockdown and to continue at the same level after coming back was great. It was important for us coaches also to see how the kids have coped. Juniors thrive on competition. They have that raw competitive fire. 'I want to be better than that person.' So suddenly when competition stopped keeping them motivated and keeping them hungry, making them do the wall holdings and dry practice was very challenging," she added.
The New Delhi World Cup was the first international competition for the Indian contingent after more than a year. And as such, it helped the shooters, as well as the coaches, gauge just where they stand in the run-up to the Olympics.
"The way they dealt with the lockdown was very individual. But initial part was difficult for all. We really had a couple of months of doing nothing. So when they came back, just standing there at the lanes for so many hours was in itself a challenge. Overall the stamina had gone down a little bit. Also for most of them, their kits needed some changes. They needed to fine-tune their rifles, equipment. Each one had their own challenges," Shirur said.
"After the lockdown, this was the first World Cup, first international competition. Everyone was looking forward to it, especially because the Olympics are on. Keeping that in mind, it was important for the shooting world to get started. Keeping the Olympic preparation in mind, this was a very good beginning."
The 46-year-old was glad to see her ward Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar overcome a particular challenge during the lockdown and clinch a gold in the 50m 3 Position event at the recently-concluded ISSF Shooting World Cup.
"Post-lockdown he suddenly looked bigger. I left him looking like a kid and he came out looking like an adult! Aishwary had a growth spurt during the lockdown," Shirur said.
"His old jacket wouldn't fit him anymore. So we had to actually have a new jacket, adjust the rifle according to size. He came to Mumbai and got a new kit done. It's always a challenge with boys at this age because their bodies are growing. To be able to deal with that aspect of their life and coming on top despite that, I'm very happy to see that."
Encouraged by their recent performance, and the way they held up, technically and mentally, despite the lockdown disruption, Shirur is optimistic about the future. "The boys look ready," she sums up.
( With inputs from ANI )
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