India’s young shooting brigade bringing the best out of World No. 1 Apurvi Chandela

Having won two individual gold medals in the World Cups in Delhi and Munich, apart from the mixed gold in Rio, Apurvi is happy with her ability to stay on top despite tougher competition from the country’s youngsters.

World No.1 air rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela says she is doing everything required to be best prepared for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

For the brave, every situation is an opportunity to grow. For World No.1 Apurvi Chandela, there is no room for complaint in a hectic season, as she quietly goes about tuning herself for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The top three shooters of the world in women’s air rifle are Indians, and the only Olympian among the three, 26-year-old Apurvi said that she was happy to experiment and try things during the two selection trials matches, in a chat with Sportstar on Thursday.

“My main focus is to peak in international competitions. I can try different things in domestic events. If I keep peaking in every competition, it will not be good for me,” reasoned Apurvi.

“Shooting the trials is not a problem, even though we had tough training and competition in Rio before our return. I could have avoided, as I have the required number of scores, but I wanted to shoot,” said Apurvi. quite candid about trying to capitalise on every situation. She is now planning to take time off and be with her family in Jaipur.

Having won two individual gold medals in the World Cups in Delhi and Munich, where she was accompanied by her parents, apart from the mixed gold in Rio, Apurvi is happy with her ability to stay on top. “I will have to shoot at the Asian Championship. The competition will be high level, as Asia is strong. The World Cup Final with 18 shooters will also be interesting,” Apurvi said, discussing about the assignments ahead this season.

“I am able to push myself to a higher level of performance because of these young girls. They are raising the bar. I am able to respond...Because of them, I am able to get the best out of myself. It is very motivating to be among a bunch of good shooters. If there is no challenge, you may stagnate and growth is slow.”

Even though she is shaping well for her second Olympics, Apurvi isn’t thinking too far, and is taking it one step at a time. “When I won the Olympic quota for the country last year, it was just one part of the job. This year has been good. The aim is Tokyo 2020. We are doing everything required to be best prepared,” she said.

Competition

With Anjum Moudgil winning the Olympic quota in air rifle with the silver medal in the World Championship, and retaining her status among the top of the heap in the world, there is new company in the form of Elavenil Valarivan who won the air rifle gold in Rio.

With Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh breathing fire, albeit in the MQS section and the national events, there has been a healthy scenario in women’s air rifle.

“I am able to push myself to a higher level of performance because of these young girls. They are raising the bar. I am able to respond. The 633 that I shot in Munich, I thought it would have taken some more time for me. Because of them, I am able to get the best out of myself. It is very motivating to be among a bunch of good shooters. If there is no challenge, you may stagnate and growth is slow,” she observed.

Unwinding

How does she manage to retain the focus and deliver top quality performance so consistently. “I focus on my shooting only when I am on the lane. Otherwise, there are many ways to relax. When I am in some other country, I just go out and roam around. In Rio, we used to just go and sit in the beach. It was my third trip to Rio but it was the first time we visited Christ the Redeemer. It was amazing,” Apurvi recalled.

One of the visits to Rio was for the Olympics in 2016. Apurvi observed that she had matured into a better shooter. “I was pretty young at that time. I have more experience of handling the ups and downs. All the experience, all the lessons, good or bad, is going to help me prepare better for Tokyo. I was in good form till about three months before the Rio Olympics. Then, there was the injury. Coming out of that took a while. I am not going to experiment anything this time. I will follow normal routine,” said Apurvi.

“I was pretty young at that time(Rio Olympics). I have more experience of handling the ups and downs. All the experience, all the lessons, good or bad, is going to help me prepare better for Tokyo.”

There will be a World Cup in Tokyo next year, which will provide the Indian shooters a chance to gauge the range and the arrangements. “We may reach Tokyo early for the World Cup and have some training. This time we may not have to worry much about planning for the Olympic preparation. They are going to keep the shooting team together. We may perhaps train in Korea before the Olympics,” she said.

Apurvi does not think about the Olympics preparation all the time. “I focus on each competition, and that takes care of the long term preparation. There is no pressure as such. There are a bunch of good girls around me, in Anjum, Elavenil, Mehuli. Even earlier, I got on well with Ayonika Paul and Pooja Ghatkar. All competitors and team-mates. They all have different vibes, are very young, and very energetic,” she said.

Of course, Apurvi has a special equation with Anjum Moudgil, with whom she shares the zodiac sign as well, as they have birth dates on successive days in January.

“Me and Anjum have been room-mates the whole of this year. We are quite similar, kind of introverts. We go out together, and being both foodies, we discuss what we should try,” she revealed.

Most of the time, the girls play cards when they spend time together or watch movies on the computer. “Last year in Germany, there was table tennis available. After training we used to play table tennis. Most of us were good in that,” Apurvi said.

Training

With Rakesh Manpat training her to be the No.1 in the world, and the national coach Oleg Mikhailov being on the same page, coaching is not an area of concern for Apurvi. “I have been doing pretty well under Rakesh. The coaching camps are under Oleg Mikhailov. Both understand me well, and my temperament. They know what kind of work to give me,” she said.

Apurvi manages to spend quality time with parents who accompany her at times. “I hope to have my parents with me from end of October till the end of November. My father will come to China, and my mother will be with me throughout,” Apurvi said.

She is quite pleased with the way media has responded to the success of shooting in the country, as the national team topped the medals table in all the four World Cups this season, in rifle and pistol. “Media is doing an amazing job. Because of that, there are a lot of youngsters coming into the sport,” she said.