Saurabh succeeds by keeping it simple

Saurabh was so much in love with the sport that he would practise for long hours, unmindful of anything.

Gold medallist India's Saurabh Chaudhary (L) and bronze medallist India's Abhishek Verma pose with their medals after their victory ceremony for the 10m air pistol men's shooting final during the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang on August 21, 2018.   -  AFP

Age: 16

From: Village Kalina, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh

Discipline: Pistol shooting

Education: Standard X.

Beginning: Saurabh Chaudhary started at the Veer Sahamal Rifle Club with coach Amit Sheoran in 2015. His father Jagmohan Singh is a farmer, and mother Brajesh Devi takes care of the family.

Like every kid, Saurabh had played with plastic toy guns and later had fun, shooting balloons with air guns. Saurabh was introduced to shooting by his brother Nitin, who took him to the club, as many children from the village trained there.

Saurabh was so much in love with the sport that he would practise for long hours, unmindful of anything. He won the North Zone youth gold in air pistol (national style) with a record 386 out of 400, beating a strong field of 428 shooters, in November 2015.

He was presented a new Morini Titanium pistol by his family within six months of joining the club. Initially, he used to borrow the gun from his coach Amit. Later, National coach Jaspal Rana impressed on him the importance of having a spare pistol, and a second pistol was bought last year.

Aim: To win an Olympic medal. There cannot be any lesser aim, as he has won everything big. He has been phenomenal so far, winning everything — from Khelo India School Games to Youth Olympics gold, Junior World Championship gold and the Asian Games gold. He could have aimed for the men’s World Championship gold in Korea, or at least one of the Olympic quota places on offer, but could not do so, as he was fielded only in the junior event.

Strong point: The ability to keep things simple and stay focused. He does not make any distinction between a training session, or competing in the Asian Games, or the World Championship. Unaffected by the modern life, he spends little time on phone, stays grounded and loves to help his father in farming.

“I did not think that it was a big competition. It was like practice only,” said Saurabh to the assembled media, after beating the former World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda of Japan for the gold in the Asian Games. The challenge will be whether he can sport such a monk-like attitude in the Olympics, for which the first challenge would be to win a quota place.

What they say: Ronak Pandit (National pistol coach): Even though Jaspal Rana, a pistol prodigy himself and the National coach for the junior pistol shooters, has been guiding Saurabh in the big competitions, Ronak has been observing him carefully during the senior camps which Saurabh had opted for, and also during the big international events, especially the Asian Games. What Ronak has been amazed about is the consistency with which Saurabh shoots the high scores on a regular basis in training.

“Saurabh has been averaging over 585 on a daily basis in the past two senior national camps in Bhopal and Delhi, prior to the Games. His final scores were 245-246. That is phenomenal,” Ronak had said, after the Asian Games. For such brilliant shooters like Saurabh, it is merely a matter of replicating their practice scores in competition, they don’t have to do anything exceptional. It is easier said than done.

“This year, he was performing with a clear mind and from now on it will be about meeting expectations. Of course, some are built for it, and can handle it. Only time will tell the real story. He is young, so physically he will be fine. It will be a test for him and the coaches handling him, whether they can keep his mind on the process and give him technical and mental skills to counter expectations,” Ronak observed.

Achievements:

2018:

Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires: Won the gold with 580 in qualification, followed by 244.2 in the final. Presented the pistol to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia: Won the gold, with 586 in qualification, and 240.7 in final.

World Championship in Changwon, Korea: Junor gold medallist. Shot 581 in qualification and 245.5 in the final, bettering his own junior World record, which incidentally was better than the men’s gold medallist.

Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany: Won the gold with 583 in qualification and 243.7 in final, a junior World record.

Asian Air Gun championship in Kuwait: Won the junior gold, with 576 in qualification and 239.8 in final.

2017:

Asian championship in Wako City, Japan: Won the youth gold with 573 in qualification and 243.1 in final.

2016:

Asian championship in Tehran: Won the junior silver with 572 in qualification and 195.8 in final.