Her achievements speak for her

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Anjali Vedpathak-Bhagwat with her husband Mandar Suresh Bhagwat. — Pic. K. R. DEEPAK-

SHE is easily the best shooter we have ever had. The sheer weight of her achievements speak for her. The soft-spoken Anjali has a hard streak and a diligent brain that has seen her maintain a high standard in world competitions in the past four years, after making the final in air rifle in the Sydney Olympics with a 394 out of 400.

It was for lack of practice on the electronic targets as well as lack of exposure in international finals that Anjali was not able to shoot at her best in the final then. She was, incidentally, the first Indian shooter and only the second Indian woman after P. T. Usha to make the Olympic final.

The 34-year-old Reliance employee, who recently quit from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), became one of the best known face in Indian sports following her four gold medal haul in the Manchester Commonwealth Games two years ago. She has since become a multi-millionaire, thanks to her accuracy.

Quite interestingly, rather impressively, Anjali has not shot a score below 395 in national and international competitions in the last four years. That is almost a 99 per cent accuracy every time, when she had aimed at a dot at 10 metres.

More than maintaining her consistency, the Mumbai-based Anjali who married businessman Mandar Suresh Bhagwat after the Sydney Olympics, has been able to beat the very best often in top class competitions. If 2002 saw her taking the big steps towards stardom with three silver medals in the World Cups including the one in the World Cup Final in Munich, the following year saw her capture two gold medals including the one in the World Cup Final in Milan.

The World Cup Final is a competition for the top-10 shooters of the season. Anjali also won the `Champion of Champions' award in 2002 at the end of the World Cup Final in Munich in a competition open for the best men and women rifle shooters. Rarely has an Indian won a world class mixed competition.

The one thing that can be pointed against Anjali, and possibly the reason that has as yet denied the bigger national awards for her after she had been bestowed the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award is that, Anjali has not been able to win an individual medal in the Asian Games.

To tell the truth, Anjali fought her best in the Asian Games in Busan, despite a three-point deficit at the end of the preliminary phase, and eventually missed the bronze by 0.1 point and the gold itself by 0.9 points. The Chinese and the Koreans have a special regard for her sweet manners and strong ability to beat the world.

The other disappointment, was in the World Championship in Lahti, in 2002 when Anjali missed the final by one point. In fact, her three cards of 99 in the last three series had a 9.9 point each. It was very close. Anjali has had her revenge over the World Champion Katerina Kurkova of the Czech Republic, and the brilliant champion of many world competitions, the versatile Lioubov Galkina of Russia. The question is whether Anjali can master the Olympic stage, rather than, whether she can beat the best in the business yet again.