A top shot

Asher Noria at the HCU Shooting Range in Hyderabad.-V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM.

The ranges may vary, the ambience might be totally different from what he trains in back home and the competition too may be really tough. But this gifted lad, who has just finished his 12th standard from Hyderabad Public School, is determined to script a new chapter in the world of shooting. Over to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

He has never won a National championship gold. But at 17, Asher Noria has set the unique record of becoming the first shooter to win a second consecutive gold in double trap in the Junior World Cup. The championship was held in Germany recently and his performance is definitely a testimony to the intensity of his preparations and his ability to rise to the occasion in demanding circumstances.

It was by all means a magnificent achievement by the Hyderabadi shooter considering that he was struggling to even stand because of severe pain in his left ankle. The reason? He had tripped while going on his daily 6km run at a park in Hyderabad 10 days before the World Cup. That against all odds Asher could clinch the gold speaks volumes of his potential to emerge a true champion in the future.

Asher first went to the Hyderabad Central University shooting range in 2002 as a nine-year-old along with his father Gusti Noria, who was himself a national skeet shooter. The lad soon developed an interest in the sport and it was only a question of taking it up full-time.

Remarkably articulate, Asher is not overly bothered even as he flies across the globe in pursuit of excellence. The ranges may vary, the ambience might be totally different from what he trains in back home and the competition too may be really tough. But this gifted lad, who has just finished his 12th standard from Hyderabad Public School, is determined to script a new chapter in the world of shooting.

The recent gold-medal performance is only a gentle reminder of Asher's potential to come up with special performances under pressure.

“It was a memorable golden finish in the Junior World Cup. The scores were tied at 186 for me and Chianese Alessandro and the issue was settled in the shoot-off. The tension was so high that I felt my heart was in my mouth. But, then again I just told myself that having come thus far to the final, it was a question of keeping my cool for a few minutes and staying focussed.

Thank God, I did exactly that and felt on top of the world,” Asher recalled proudly. He also takes pride in saying that even while training all alone in Hyderabad, he is in constant touch with his mentor and World record-holder Ranjan Sodhi to get those “invaluable words of wisdom to be a much better shooter.”

Asher says that he has no score at all in the Commonwealth Games selection trials, which he missed because of school examinations. But he hopes that his performances in Germany and in the World Championship in Italy in July would ensure that he would get a call for the national team for the Games to be held in Delhi later this year.

“Yes, with the National Federation arranging a 20-day preparatory camp in Italy before the World meet commencing in Zurich from July 29, I am optimistic of peaking at the right moment,” says Asher about his immediate plans. He stresses the fact that no shooting championship at any level was easy as things can go awry in seconds. “All you have to do is to tune yourself for the day and stay in the right frame of mind. The key to success lies in how quickly you adapt to the given conditions in any competition,” he says. “Yes, there will be expectations and some pressure too on me. But again, I am getting used to countering this,” says the confident youngster, who has obviously come a long way since finishing fifth in the Nationals in 2005.

Not surprisingly, Asher keeps remembering the simple advice of another champion shooter, Gagan Narang. “I always keep recollecting Gagan's observation — good physical fitness levels would ensure that the mental juices would flow,” says the youngster, who wants to qualify as an engineer.