Taking aim again

Ronjan Sodhi, the double trap silver medallist in the World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia.-

For sure, Ronjan Sodhi is one of the most accomplished shooters in the country. And he will train his guns at the World Championships before he sets out to straighten the record in the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There is still a lot of unfinished business for him in the world of shooting, writes Kamesh Srinivasan.

It was the Olympics. It was the fag end of the double trap qualification series in the third round. It was station No. 1. Ronjan Sodhi was conscious of the fact that the crowd’s acknowledgement of Richard Faulds of Britain, cheering him noisily as he walked from station No. 5 to No. 1, had cost him a bird. It was at the same station too.

In the event, he did not go through the seven-second routine. He hurried. He mounted the gun, called for the bird, missed the first and was dazed. He went through with the next shot mechanically, and missed the second bird as well.

It was a ‘double.’ It was disaster. Four years of dominating the sport, shooting a world record even before the Beijing Olympics, had all come to naught, in one moment of indecision.

“I still see those targets, flying away. They fell and broke. It was horrifying. The moment I missed the first, I knew it was over for me. I had a blank fire, kept looking at the target and missed the second,” recalled double trap marksman Ronjan, who missed four of the last six birds in the qualification phase of the London Games and did not make the final by three points, after ending up 11th with a total of 134.

“Honestly, I was not trained to handle the crowd being so noisy. All these years, we were used to hearing people being requested to switch off their mobile phones,” said Ronjan who had trained very hard, but had not visualised the possibility of the crowd getting into the picture, and spoiling it!

“I was quite disappointed. I was depressed and did not know what to do with life. I felt quite hollow. But, my wife, family and friends supported me. They understood that it was sport. In fact, my wife who had never come to the airport to receive me when I won all those gold medals and trophies, was at the airport with my son, when I returned from London,” he recalled. However, like a true champion, Ronjan picked himself up to bag the silver medal in the World Cup final, in Maribor, Slovenia, just 48 days after the London fiasco.

“I actually wanted to take a long break. It was four years of non-stop training, travel and competition. But I decided to shoot even though I lacked the motivation. This was the toughest phase for me in a long time. There were a lot of questions from people who did not understand. It was important for me to lift myself up from the disappointment,” said Ronjan.

In the World Cup, Ronjan shot 48, 49 and 47 in the qualification to be just one point behind Joshua Richmond of the US, going into the final. He shot 47 again in the final, and placed for the silver with a total of 191, again one point behind the American.

“I was a little nervous before the final. I really wanted to shoot a good score and win,” said Ronjan. “Looking back, the first round was the toughest. I was almost shivering. But, after the 48, I was relaxed,” said Ronjan, as he continued to reminisce.

The field had the cream of the world, except the Olympic champion Peter Russell Wilson of Britain. The London Games silver and bronze medallists, Hakan Dahlby of Sweden and Vasily Mosin of Russia finished fifth and fourth respectively, while the fourth-placed Fehaid Aldeehani of Kuwait took the bronze, one point behind Ronjan.

Sodhi, when he trudged away wearily after the London Olympics fiasco. The shooter is clawing his way back up the rungs.-PTI

“I would have caught up, had it been anyone other than Richmond. He actually missed the first target, and I was in the lead after 14 birds. I did have a chance to win the gold and make it a hat-trick in the World Cup Finals,” said Ronjan.

“I actually wanted to put my gun down, after missing one, when the thought of performing a hat-trick crossed my mind. I then called for the target and missed,” said Ronjan.

“Joshua is my favourite shooter, mentally strong. Even in the Olympics, when he finished 16th with 131, I was wondering what had happened to him. He was the world No.1, but that is sport,” said Ronjan. Yes, it was redemption time for both Richmond and Ronjan.

“I am content with the silver. It would have been great to get the gold for a hat-trick, but perhaps that thought spoilt my chance,” said Ronjan.

Brushing aside all the arguments that it was his first Olympics, and that he had lost a lot of weight prior to the Games, Ronjan said that everything was fine, except for that one moment of indecision that saw him hurry. “It had not happened to me for years, and it happened in the Olympics. That is sport,” he said philosophically.

Ronjan was quite grateful to the Union Sports Ministry and the national Federation who backed him, and sent him for 15 days of training to Italy before the World Cup Final.

For sure, Ronjan Sodhi is one of the most accomplished shooters in the country, and he will train his guns at the World Championships, before he sets out to straighten the record in the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There is still a lot of unfinished business for him in the world of shooting.

World Cup results: Double trap: 1. Joshua Richmond (US) 192 (145); 2. Ronjan Sodhi 191 (144); 3. Fehaid Aldeehani (Kuw) 190 (143).