Heena Sidhu to get more space in executing plans

Two-time Olympian Heena Sidhu will be taking on-the-spot decisions on her own about the shooting part once the Asian Games 2018 is on.

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar poses with Heena Sidhu in an event organized by Edelweiss on Saturday to wish good luck to Indian contingent participating in Asian Games 2018.   -  Vivek Bendre

Two-time Olympian Heena Sidhu, who has entered in women’s 10m Air Pistol by India for the Asian Games 2018 in Indonesia next month, will be taking on-the-spot decisions on her own about the shooting part once the event is on. Husband-coach Ronak Pandit, an international shooter, explained the logic behind the change.

“Competition involves taking 60 shots in 75 minutes. She will save four to five minutes by managing herself, instead of discussing with me three times. Those minutes can be used to rest. I have taken a step back and will intervene only when she feels she is in some trouble, and not able to get out of it even after trying a few times. This approach helps in time management.”

Having driven from the training base in Pune to Mumbai for the Edelweiss felicitation event for AG 2018 athletes, the couple is looking at the final camp in New Delhi to complete the preparation.

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Shooting sport involves minute calculations, managing multiple factors within and beyond the participant’s control, before the latter lines up for shots at the target. The personal coach and support team play their part in preparing the shooter. In Heena’s case, micro-managing by Pandit will be toned down as a tactical decision. “The idea is to give her more space. The coach and her team just make a plan and let her execute it.”

The double Olympian (London 2012 and Rio 2016) clinched the 10m AP gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games at Brisbane, and the duo is looking at excelling at the World Cups organized by International Shooting Sport Federation, where a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is up for grabs.

“We need to forget CWG scores and look at performing in the World Cup events,” said the coach, pointing to the Munich World Cup in May 2018 as the competition to determine a shooter’s potential.

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Heena managed a total score (574 in 10m AP for 17th place, 576 in 25m AP for 34th place) at the Munich event, emerging as the highest Indian women pistol performer over 10metres and second-best (behind Rahi Sanrobat in 20th position) over the longer distance.

“The reference point towards build up for Asian Games will be the Munich World Cup, not just the score but also the rankings. Germany is considered the hub of world shooting and everyone participates, so you know where you stand.”

India will be sending a 28-member squad of shooters for the Asian Games (16 men and 12 women), among whom she is listed in the 10m AP. According to the official Games website, shooting will be conducted at the Jakarbaring International Shooting Range. Infrastructure is organized by the national organizing body, so at majors like the Olympic Games, conditions are different from those at ISSF World Cups hosted by established shooting nations.

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Pandit agrees that adapting to a new venue will be a challenge for international shooters regularly competing on the circuit. “None of us has been to Indonesia before, not one of the shooters. We have no idea of what to expect, no idea of the level of shooting sport in that country, no idea of the infrastructure available. Pictures of the range have been arranged through friends, so we know visually what the shooting range looks like.”

Competition for India will come from China, South Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, to name a few. AG 2018 will be followed by the ISSF World Championships in September, where Heena, a former world number one, will take part in three events (10m AP, 25m AP and mixed team) against the world’s best.

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