Coach Karmakar wants Mehuli to taste defeat for more success in future

In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar, CWG medal-winning shooter Mehuli Ghosh and her coach Joydeep Karmakar talk at length on the road ahead.

Mehuli Ghosh won silver in the final of the women's 10m air rifle event at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.   -  AFP

Mehuli Ghosh clinched a silver medal in the women's 10m air rifle event in her maiden attempt at the Commonwealth Games, but the 17-year-old shooter is not satisfied with her performance.

The shooter, who hails from Baidyabati — a small down in the district of Hooghly in West Bengal — makes it clear that she will have to work hard in the future.

In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar, Mehuli and her coach Joydeep Karmakar — also an Olympian — talk at length on the road ahead.

Excerpts…

Mehuli, how does it feel to have won a Commonwealth Games silver medal?

I don’t know how to explain the feeling. Winning the silver medal is a big thing for me. This being my first Commonwealth Games, achieving something like this was something really special. At the same time, I am not satisfied with my game, and will work hard to perform better. Yes, it does feel a bit bad to come so close to a gold and then letting it slip.

Joydeep, how would you describe your ward’s performance?

As a coach, I am happy with her performance. But technically, she has a long way to tread. This is just the beginning. When it comes to technicalities, I would still be sceptical, though she has got a fair bit of success early in her career. Last one year has been phenomenal. She was not there in the rankings in the state, and now she is World No. 6. She has won so many laurels, it is amazing, but as we look at the short-term goal — the 2020 Olympics — we need to keep things very low and work on it.

Mehuli, you said that you are not too satisfied with your performance. What has the Commonwealth Games final taught you?

It has taught me to be more patient. Another important learning has been to wait and keep calm till the last shot is fired. The event also made me understand how to control emotions and handle pressure in crunch situations. It is important to remain calm and cool. I called up Joydeep Sir after the final to say sorry. He congratulated me, and also told me that I need to better my performance. He is not satisfied with my scores, and told me that I need to keep my cool and fight till the end.

Experimental coach Joydeep Karmakar has a clear plan for Mehuli Ghosh.   -  PTI

  Do you want to add anything here, Joydeep?

J: Yes. Look, we don’t want to blow things out of proportion saying that she will be winning a medal at the Olympics. Those are the reactions from the people, but you have to keep things low and simple because she is young. I don’t want to portray her as the best or as a teen sensation because that would unnecessarily add to the pressure on her. I would like to protect her from all such situation.

Let’s be honest, I would not rule out the possibility of a burnout because we have seen many such examples in the past. When it comes to young athletes, they show immense talent but they fizz out when it comes to graduating to the senior level. The best thing is that, a lot of junior athletes do amazingly worldwide in junior section, but Mehuli, on the contrary, is doing amazingly well in the seniors’ section.

That is one thing that we have been successful in implementing because right from the beginning, I had told her not to follow any junior-level scores. It was always about beating the seniors’ scores. The scores were always on her mind. The idea was to do better than the seniors’ scores. It was never about the junior team.

But then, she does compete in both junior and senior teams. How does Mehuli strike a balance between the two?

M: I don’t try to do anything different for the two categories. These are just two categories. We play with equal grit and energy, so there is no point is classifying.

"I don’t want to portray her as the best or as a teen sensation because that would unnecessarily add to the pressure on her. I would like to protect her from all such situation."

 

There are so many competitions lined up in both categories. That must be tiring…

J: That’s why, it is important to be cautious of a burnout. Though that phase has not come yet, we need to be very careful. In the next two years, she will almost be 20. That’s a very vulnerable age. There will be changes in her attitude, in her expectations, and it will have a huge impact in the performance and the success level of an athlete. That is one thing I am cautious about. That’s why I want to keep things simple.

As a coach, do you plan to take Mehuli abroad for training?

J: Absolutely. We were planning to have foreign trips this year itself, but then, there are too many events this time. She is in the junior and senior teams, so there is a lot of competition back to back. She is back from CWG just a couple of days back, and in the next four days, she will be off to the World Cup Stage II in South Korea. Then, the World Cup III in the US. and Cup IV in Germany. So, there is no point making her tired by arranging training programmes abroad. I have kept away the idea for this year. We will definitely be taking her abroad for training next year and she will compete in invitational tournaments as well.

READ: Mehuli skipped ISC examination to shoot silver at CWG

What are the lessons would you like to remember from the Commonwealth Games?

M: I will be aware of what could happen next. Every day, we get to learn something or the other, and those things actually help us immensely. We apply those things in the next matches. I will ensure not to repeat these mistakes.

J: I would like to add something here. As a coach, I want to experiment something. I want to see her getting defeated. That, in opinion, will make her a stronger athlete. It might sound a bit controversial, but most of the teenage sensations right now, who have come to the fore for the Commonwealth Games, we are not able to really recognise or understand the real technical or psychological being in them.

The results might be almost same, but their individual talent and weakness is quite different from each other. You can’t label them in the same order. Their characters will only be tested once they face defeats. They are now fearless. They don’t know what losing is about. They are on a rampage now. They have a superb attitude, that’s very good. But then, it is inevitable that you will face defeat very soon. So, when you lose hope, there comes a situation when they will be tested. I want Mehuli to participate in more and more competitions, so that she faces defeat, learns things and so that her hunger for success remains.

"As a coach, I want to experiment something. I want to see her getting defeated. That, in opinion, will make her a stronger athlete. It might sound a bit controversial, but most of the teenage sensations right now, who have come to the fore for the Commonwealth Games, we are not able to really recognise or understand the real technical or psychological being in them."

 

Is that an Olympian talking?

J: Things are simple for me. In my career, I have learnt from mistakes. I did not have a coach or mentor, I did it the toughest way. I faced more defeats than victories. For me, CWG is not the benchmark. We will have to focus on the Asian Games and keep focusing on our job.

Your coach wants you to lose! What are your thoughts on this, Mehuli?

M: (Laughs) I have full faith in Joydeep sir and if he decides something for me, it has to be good. I will follow whatever he tells me to do.

Indian shooting is busy celebrating the success of youngsters like you and Manu Bhaker. How do you see this?

M: I am immensely happy for Manu. She has been very consistent, winning three gold medals. We have been room-mates in Mexico and CWG, so we chill a lot.

As a coach, what are your future goals?

J: We don’t have a concrete goal, it is always abstract. In my opinion, a medal is never a goal. A material medal cannot be a goal. It is about how hungry you are about your performance.  One should be focusing on the performance and not think of just a medal.

Even if Mehuli clinches medals and achieves success, she should put it away and start focusing again. In sports, there is nothing called perfection. There may be many medals, but my ultimate target — though it may sound odd — is to see Mehuli getting a Laureus Award. May be, medals will come in the way, but it is always about the hunger.