Interview with shooter Gagan Narang

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Ace shooter Gagan Narang has won many laurels in his sport for the country including multiple Commonwealth medals and an Olympic Bronze medal too.

His Twitter profile reads “Breathe, Eat, Sleep Shooting Sport. In pursuit of Excellence.” Meet Gagan Narang, ace shooter who has let his rifle do the talking in the two decades he has been a sportsperson. “My shooting journey began when I was around 10 years old. Initially for a few years I was not a serious shooter as I dabbled into other sports as well. But when I was about 14 or 15 years old, I found my calling. Earlier this year I finished 20 years in the sport as a professional. It has been a rewarding journey for me, though one dotted with many obstacles. Among the many titles that came my way were Olympic Medal, a World Championship medal and 10 Commonwealth medals,” he says. Gagan was first noticed in the the 2003 Afro-Asian Games where he won the gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Rifle in front of his home crowd. 2006 was a big year as he won his first World Cup medal – a gold at Guangzhou. He carried his impeccable form to the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games and captured four gold medals and three bronze respectively at the two continental games. Backed by all these performances, his ranking catapulted the World No 1 position in International Ranking. At the 2010 Commonwealth games at New Delhi Gagan added 4 gold medals to the Indian tally. He was the only Indian male sportsman to do so in the games. These medals were in the 10m Air Rifle and 50m Rifle 3 positions, individual and pair events. To take this forward he has also started the Gagan Narang Sports Promotion and Foundation (GNSPF) that has been working very closely with close to 20 top potential junior shooters who can win medals at Olympics. The experienced Gagan has initiated high performance plans for each of these shooters so that they not only take the leap from just being a good and potential shooter to a world class shooter in no time. In fact he has identified shooting prodigy Elavenil Velervin  who is part of GNSPF and her surge in performance has not only ensured government support, it has also won her a berth for the upcoming Asian Games. GNSPF has tied up with sponsors for equipment and technical expertise along with couple of other sponsors. The Khel Ratna winner tells us more in this exclusive conversation.

Tell us about your next event?

Currently I am training for the 52nd World Championship which will be held in Changwon, Korea from 31st August to 15th September.

How do you look back at your journey in terms of the challenges you faced?

The biggest challenge I faced as a player in the initial stage is the support to fund my sporting aspirations. I always say that I am a product of the system but the system only begun to back me once I started winning the medals. Initially my parents invested in the sport and there was no other support there. But times have changed and so have things in these 20 years’ time. I overcome those initial hindrances by having very supportive parents. My initiative of starting GNSPF was also with the purpose to help budding athletes of India to overcome the initial hindrance and breaking entry level barriers, which is where most athletes miss out. The GNSPF platform will able them with all that is needed to become an international shooter.

What does the GNSPF do to promote shooting as a sport?

GNSPF is a not for profit organization that promotes the sport by way of giving access to talents to shooting ranges, provide equipment and world class coaching. Gun for Glory is one of the models that work under GNSPF but in the coming years we would like to reach out to a lot more and help a lot more sportsmen and sports women at the grassroots. Our motto is “excellence in grassroots”, in other words to provide excellent infrastructure to them when they are up and coming.

How is shooting doing as a sport in India?

There has been a big growth of shooting sports in India. From few hundreds in the ranges in the beginning of this decade to thousands of them-the ranges are overflowing. Everyone comes here with a dream to win an Olympics medal. Shooting has been the most successful sport for India in multi-disciplinary events so far.

What kind of encouragement do potential shooters need to perform well?

The encouragement can come by way of good coaching and good infrastructure. There needs to be an honest coach-pupil relationship for athletes to do well. A lot of times they do well in competitions and then in some way their performances fall, things become inconsistent, that’s because of a lack of systematic approach. Ideally an athlete should be able to follow the programme of one coach and not be forced to adopt different methods. That is the only way to success.

How does one get into shooting as a sport as it is not as prevalent as other sports?

Well, getting into any sports is simple. And whoever wants to do shooting also finds a way to get to the range. I do not think there is a problem there.

How does one recognize talent in this sport?

There are various parameters to measure the skill, efficiency and accuracy levels. It is pretty scientific. Once an aspiring athlete go through those tests, it becomes fairly clear as to where one’s strength and weakness lie. At times things can be tweaked to make one a champion shooter. It is all about science. Sports science today has advanced to a stage that lick and probability is minimised. One knows fairly well where one is headed.

What measures can be taken to improve awareness of the sport in India?

I think there is a lot of awareness about shooting sports and the results it has produced for India in the last decade or so is commendable. But the drawback is that it is not a television sport. Unless International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) is willing to tweak the rules to make it attractive, it cannot compete with television sports like football/hockey /cricket /badminton.

What role do you think the Government can take to popularise the sport?

A: I am not sure if the Government can do anything to popularise the sports because the sport is run by the Federation, which is funded by the govt. The Federation can take the sport to schools and colleges and hold clinics. They can give kids the experience of shooting in ranges and make it more popular sport.

What makes shooting a unique sport – it does not seem to be very easy to practice?

Every sport is unique. Shooting requires high level of concentration and precision.

What is the one lesson the sport has taught you that you would like to pass on to young shooters?

No aim is high enough. Keep aiming higher and keep renewing ambitions, only then one will achieve those.

Tell us something else about yourself.

My role model is legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali and I am an avid photographer who loves wild life photography

This story first appeared in Smartlife’s August 2018 issue here:

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