Rifle marksman Swapnil Kusale’s dream of winning an Asian Games medal in Hangzhou might have gone sour, courtesy one poor shot, but that has not stopped him from aspiring for gold at the Asian Championships, scheduled to commence in Changwon, South Korea on October 22.
One of the best 50m rifle 3-positions shooter in the country, the 28-year-old Kolhapur marksman was leading by a huge margin in his event at the Asian Games recently before a rank bad 7.6 on the third-last shot in the finals saw him take a mighty tumble from No.1 to 5.
That effectively ended his hopes of winning even a bronze medal in the quadrennial continental showpiece as he finished fourth.
However, as the shooting team leaves for the Asian Championships, Kusale has put the disappointment on the back-burner and wants to concentrate on the next assignment.
“That shot... how did it go that way, I have absolutely no idea. It’s a game basically. I still had two shots remaining and I focused on them. I just forgot that had I shot a poor score,” said Kusale, one of the early birds to secure a Paris Olympic quota place.
“Initially, I was a bit shocked how it could happen to me. But without bothering about it much, how and why it happened, I prepared myself for the next two shots,” said Kusale, who had bagged the 2024 Olympic quota by finishing fourth at the World Championships in Cairo last year.
“Yes, it did strike me that I had missed the gold medal because of that one shot, but then I thought it can happen in this sport and I will concentrate on the next championship.” A similar last shot in the finals at the 2022 World Championships in Cairo had robbed him of a medal, but that disappointment was masked by the Olympic quota place he won there.
“It had happened to me at the World Championships in Cairo last year as well, but yes, I bagged an Olympic quota there and finished fourth, so that was the saving grace,” said Kusale on the sidelines of a function organised by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to felicitate the Asian Games medal winners.
India returned home with 22 medals in shooting, their best ever performance at the Games.
“I was very deeply concentrating on the moment, too much focused and because of that, maybe, my entire process (went for a toss). It’s something which I never anticipated I could do. I tried my level best to come back, but I still missed an individual medal.
Kusale, though, won the team gold along with Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar and Akhil Sheoran.
Kusale, a junior TC with the Railways, says that world champion rifle shooter Tejaswini Sawant has helped him handle tricky situation while competing.
Sawant, who also hails from Kolhapur but now resides in Pune, had become world champion in 2010 in women’s 50m rifle prone.
“Teju di (Tejaswini) has taught me how to handle different situations, etc. I have learnt from her and she has inspired me a lot over the years,” said Kusale.
Kusale is also not surprised that his “best pal” Akhil Sheoran too has bagged the second Olympic quota for the country at the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan just before the Asian Games.
The two have been competing together since 2012, when they were juniors, and Kusale said he cannot remember a national camp when they have not been roommates.
“Akhil has been my roommate and best pal since 2012 since the time we were competing as juniors. We are like brother and both have won (Olympic) quota, albeit one year apart.”
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