`I am happy to have reached this far'

I had a job on hand in the Commonwealth Games, and am glad I did well, says Samaresh Jung in this interview to Kamesh Srinivasan.

A soft-spoken person who sticks to his task, Samaresh Jung had failed to win the Olympic quota by a whisker and missed making the free pistol final by one point in the last Asian Games in Busan. He is keen to set that record straight as he finds himself in a position of strength. He — along with his wife, rifle-shooter Anuja who herself won a gold and a silver in the Commonwealth Games — has now built a solid foundation. The excerpts:

Question: What do these medals and the David Dixon award at the Commonwealth Games mean to you?

Answer: I did expect to win seven or eight medals. I knew what I had to do. I had a job on hand, and am glad I did well. The David Dixon award gives me a sense of achievement. I aimed at good scores, not medals and awards. I would like others to believe that it is possible for us to achieve, if we stick to our task and want excellence badly.

How was the reaction of the people and the media?

It is good to see people paying attention. In a way, it is not a very big achievement. At least that is what I think. Hopefully, this will initiate greater success, as we are capable of achieving so much more.

People crave for attention, but you chose to make a quiet return, avoiding a hero's reception. Why?

It was a personal decision. I wanted to be with my two-year-old daughter Sauravi and family for two additional days. That is why I returned before the other shooters. It was a team of 27 shooters and we won 16 gold medals in Melbourne. Half my medals were team medals. I didn't want to hog all the attention by coming early. Of course, I would have loved to come with the team.

It must be a great joy for you and your wife Anuja to have won nine medals in all, out of a possible 10.

I am happier for her. She went through a bad phase and I was perhaps responsible for that. She worked very hard to get back her winning form. In the first two years of our marriage, I didn't realise that the methods that worked for me would not work for her.

I like to train at home and she prefers the range. The performance of the rest of the shooters had gone up. I hope she has gained enough confidence for better scores in future.

Both of you pursue the same sport, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

The biggest advantage is that both of us understand the sport. If one of us goes through a bad patch, the other can understand. I will never question, if money is blown up buying ammunition. The disadvantage is that we both are away for long and the kid suffers. Then, everything has a positive and a negative side.

One of my principles is to enjoy the small things in life. I will be happy shooting my personal best. Maybe, that is not good enough for someone else.

The government has done quite a lot for shooting. Is it fair to focus only on a malfunctioning gun and blame the government?

Yes, it is unfair. It can happen to anyone. Good that it happened during the individual event, and not during the team competition, as Ronak also would have lost a medal. Had the coach been there we would have perhaps solved the problem.

But he had gone with the rest of the team to China as the ticketing was done like that. It is not easy carrying two or three guns for an event. Already you are carrying four different pistols for four events. Of course, a new gun takes six months to arrive. The government may cut that time. Anyway, it was the pistol that didn't work, not the system.

How do you look back at your progress as a shooter?

I could have shot well earlier. We didn't have a coach for some time and we didn't have ammunition for nearly two years. Otherwise, I am happy to have reached this far, after having taking up the sport in 1994, and started competing internationally from 1997.

What are the areas that need to be addressed?

We need to upgrade existing facilities. We need to have a number of functional ranges in different parts of the country. We have foreign coaches, but we are not able to train good quality coaches from a clutch of former shooters.

We need more ammunition and different types of them. At Melbourne, I didn't like the ammunition that we had because it was hard, but our team officials managed to get me ammunition with soft recoil that I liked. It did wonders. We also need to have world-class range.

Do you look up to anyone in shooting?

Yes, there are a couple of them. Ragnar Skanaker of Sweden was one. He won his first Olympic medal in 1968 and continued to win medals at the world level in the 1990s when he was in his 60s.

Then, there was the Hungarian, Karoly Takacs who won the gold medals in rapid fire pistol in the London and Helsinki Olympics with his left hand after his shooting right hand had been shattered in the war. He had his victory speech ready a day before the competition and won the gold by beating the world champion and world record holder, beating the world record itself by 10 points.

I wish I had such confidence in my shooting! Anyway, I am happy with what I am doing. Am happy to be a shooter.