Heena Sidhu talks challenges on the firing line

In her quest for triumph, Heena Sidhu fought back from the seventh position to register nine 10+ scores in 12 attempts to clinch the bronze medal in women's 10m Air Pistol at the Asian Games.

Heena Sidhu spares a minute for the shutterbugs at the Asian Games in Palembang on Friday.   -  AP

In pursuit of shooting excellence, Heena Sidhu had clinched two team medals in her last two Asian Games appearances, but individual glory was missing from this particular trophy cabinet. She changed it on Friday, clinching the bronze medal in the women's 10m Air Pistol at the 2018 Asian Games.

Heading into the Jakarta Games, the 28-year-old shooter switched things up, tweaked her coaching regimen and was hungry for individual glory.

In her quest for triumph, Heena fought back from the seventh position to register nine 10+ scores in 12 attempts to clinch the medal.

Talking about her come-from-behind podium finish, Heena told Sportstar from Palembang, “When you’re trying to fight back, you're just thinking of the next shot and don’t have time to think of how far you are or how much you have to cover. You just have to take it one shot at a time.”

The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has a different take on the notion of nerves that is synonymous with shooting. “I don’t focus on tackling nerves. I just keep my mind on the job and let the nerves do whatever they're doing. If you’re spending too much energy trying to tackle your nerves rather than focusing on what you need to do, then you’re bound to lose your flow. It's all about getting into the zone,” she said.

“As a shooter, it's my job to keep my mind focused. It's like meditation; not to calm me but to focus on a very particular thought and try to channelise that into my performance. You need a lot of aggression and confidence and focus solely on what you have to do in the next shot,” she added, stressing the importance of going into the 'zone'.

Change in approach

One of the key changes she made ahead of the Asian Games was to take her own decisions once she entered the firing range. This included skipping sideline discussions with her husband-coach Ronak Pandit, a former shooter.

"We do this sometimes as and when required and it's all a part of training. On the firing line, a shooter is alone. You have to fight your own battles. Sometimes, the shooter feels confident and the coach doesn't have to necessarily give feedback as it becomes counterproductive.”

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Shooting is a sport where the top athletes are separated by mere decimal points. The former world number one delved into how Ronak put her through extensive final match simulations to prepare her for such crunch situations.

“Shooting is like that, you don't get a big margin between athletes. We try to create simulations of situations similar to the finals and that's how we try to deal with the situation. However, match pressure and training pressure can never be the same. That’s something you just have to go through, you can't simulate that,” she said.

On her career so far and what it takes to be consistently among the top shooters in the world, Heena said, “I've been in this sport for 12 years and it's a never-ending journey. It's a very personal journey and I'm not here to fight against anyone else, but with myself. It's all about bettering your own score, be it in training or in competitions. You need to try to improve yourself every day and not get overconfident with your good performances. That's all it takes to be consistent.”

Heena spoke about the support of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in her journey. “It's important that an athlete feels secure in life and because of ONGC I don't have to worry about the future.”

The two-time Olympian has her eyes set on September's ISSF World Shooting Championships. “The Asian Games medal has come at a great time and will certainly serve as a morale booster ahead of the championships. It is a bigger platform and the competition will be a lot tougher. I'm going to take it one shot at a time,” she said.