It is the toughest event in rifle and pistol, long and taxing. The rifle 3-position event demands 120 shots during qualification, 40 each in kneeling, prone and standing position. Thereafter, it is a 45-shot final.
Earlier women used to have 60 shots, but they have been put on par with the men in recent years.
Unlike air events, in which youngsters shoot from 10 metres to strike world class scores very early in their career, the 50-metre event really requires considerable experience and expertise.
In such a backdrop, the 19-year-old Ayushi Podder has done remarkably well to find herself in the mix of six shooters shortlisted for the Tokyo Olympics. A second year student of Public Administration at the DAV College in Chandigarh, the Kolkata-based Ayushi has been shooting impressive scores of 1174 and 1168 in the Olympic trials.
While the other five World championship silver medallist Anjum Moudgil, former World champion Tejaswini Sawant, Gaayathri Nithyanandam, Sunidhi Chauhan and Kajal Saini have all got regular international exposure, Ayushi has been stepping it up through the domestic circuit.
From shooting 1121 in the junior section of the last World Championship in Korea in 2018, to scores of 1137 and 1154 in the junior World Cups in Suhl, Ayushi has come a long way in a rather short time.
“Ayushi is one of the promising juniors who has been shooting consistently and gradually,” said the High performance coach of the Indian rifle team, Olympian Deepali Deshpande.
Ayushi has the big advantage, as her father Pankaj Podder, who works with the Railways, is himself a national level shooter, and an internationally qualified coach.
In fact, it was Pankaj who initiated Mehuli Ghosh, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist in air rifle, into shooting, along with his daughter, when he set up the Bull’s Eye Academy in 2014. “There is no magic about Ayushi’s big scores now. She has been shooting well even last year. Her equipment, especially rifle was causing trouble. Now she is well equipped and quite experienced also,” observed Deepali.
Having done well in the Khelo India Youth Games, Ayushi has been getting support from the government. She has recently been inducted into the prestigious TOPS scheme, and given a monthly allowance of Rs.25,000 as part of the development group that is being groomed for the 2024 Games.
Ayushi who makes brilliant sketches with the pencil, was trained in Odissi dance by Dona Ganguly, wife of former India cricket captain Saurav Ganguly, during the school days. Now she relaxes with Western dance and music, especially during the lockdown. She spends time on physical fitness, trying to enhance strength and endurance through yoga.
With her father’s rich experience of competition for more than 30 years, Ayushi gets all the motivation and guidance, to speed up her shooting education and progress quick towards world standards.