Gagan's leap of faith

“It is like someone shooting a score of 615 in four years of training and somebody shooting 612 in a year. Who would you choose to guide? Most of the shooters get stuck at one level or one score. The attempt is to help them make the leap,” says Olympian Gagan Narang of his Project Leap.

These are the days of ‘big data’, and according to Gagan Narang, everything pertaining to a shooter’s performance at the Project Leap’s camps would be fed into a system and would be monitored to form a wealth of knowledge base.

Twenty years into shooting, and having won plenty of laurels for the country, Gagan Narang, 34, is making an honest attempt to fast-track excellence in the sport.

From selling his house to buy a rifle to enduring tough phases in a career that has seen the marksman win medals at the Olympics, the World Championships, the World Cup Finals (with two world records) and the World Cup, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Championships, Gagan has gone through a range of emotions. He has, for sometime now, been trying to empower other shooters with the right knowledge and guidance through his pet project Gun for Glory, which has many centres around the country.

The fact that a dozen shooters, easily the country’s best, could not maintain the trend of winning Olympic medals — it started with the double-trap silver by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in Athens in 2004 — at Rio 2016 must have stung Gagan into starting the novel ‘Project Leap’ that breathes excellence.

He likened it to a photographer starting with a top camera to produce quality images straightaway. “Our shooters use SCATT training system on the second day of training,” pointed out Gagan, quite convinced that if the best of talent is provided the best of support — both technically and otherwise — the results are bound to be world class.

Gagan Narang may still be nursing a desire to win an Olympic gold or a World Championship gold, especially since the shooter seems to have regained mastery over his favourite air rifle event. But he believes that shooters with barely six months to a year in the sport can deliver Olympic medals in 2024, if exposed to excellence early in their career.   -  PTI

 

“It is like someone shooting a score of 615 in four years of training and somebody shooting 612 in a year. Who would you choose to guide? Most of the shooters get stuck at one level or one score. The attempt is to help them make the leap,” explained Gagan in a chat with Sportstar.

“We are starting with 20 shooters, under 20 years of age — 10 each in pistol and rifle. It is a pilot project open to our students. We can open it to everyone if the results prove that it is the right path to go forward,” said Gagan.

According to him, there would be a dozen experts including good foreign coaches to take care of every conceivable factor. Gagan may still be nursing a desire to win an Olympic gold or a World Championship gold, especially since the shooter seems to have regained mastery over his favourite air rifle event. But he believes that shooters with barely six months to a year in the sport can deliver Olympic medals in 2024, if exposed to excellence early in their career.

“They will all have 60 days of training camps in a year in Pune guided by the experts. It will be five camps of 12 days each,” explained Gagan.

<FZ,2,0,33>The Indian coaches will be taught all the methods to maintain continuity. There will be roving coaches, who will visit the selected trainees in their local centres and ensure that they grasp the techniques and lessons in the correct way and are ready for further “polishing” in their next camp.

“We want to maximise the gains of the camps and not waste time by trying to unlearn things practised the wrong way,” Gagan pointed out.

In these days of ‘big data’, Gagan felt that everything would be fed into a system as every aspect would be monitored to form a wealth of knowledge base. The data may throw up a lot of indicators with regard to the right methodology, specifically for each shooter.

“Many times we tend to blame the coaches or the equipment when the performance level dips, without knowing the real reasons. We change things without understanding that the source of the problem lies elsewhere. Once we are able to get the data and see a pattern, we will know exactly how much load of training is required for individual shooters and all other specific details,” Gagan said.

Quite happy to put the resources together, approximately about Rs. 1.2 crore (the 20 students will not be required to pay anything for their training), Gagan said that a review would be made after a year.

More than anything, the shooters will get solid training and they would be tested through various levels of competitions to see whether they are ready to make the jump and perform under pressure.

“Most of the time we compromise on training, as there are many competitions, and we have no option but to go through. Good foundation in terms of training will automatically take care of good scores in competition,” Gagan explained.

We often tend to go to the grassroots without the right tools!

Gagan Narang mentoring shooters at his training centre in Pune as part of his Project Leap.   -  PTI

 

“The whole attempt in Project Leap is excellence at the grassroots level. In the normal course, you are expected to reach a certain standard before the experts take you forward. Here all the experts — technical, physical, mental and psychological — apart from the best of infrastructure and equipment are available straightaway at the start to fast-track progress,” said Gagan, touching upon the key objective of his project.

It’s not really lack of infrastructure or knowledge, but what possibly hinders progress is the lack of the right kind of guidance at the right time. At a time when the 50m rifle prone event has gone out of the Olympics, Gagan perhaps gets more time to focus on the project.

“Not really, we still shoot prone as part of the 3-position event. At the moment, I am happy to be back on top in air rifle. I am eating, sleeping and breathing shooting. When I need change, it is photography. There is nothing else,” Gagan said.

With the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the World Championship next year, and the current season having the Commonwealth Championship in Gold Coast in November, Gagan has all the reason to train hard and stay ahead of the pack to be able to fight for the big medals.

“In the morning I train, and I devote time to other things later. I am their biggest competitor, and the kids are my inspiration,” said Gagan.

There are a few goals to be achieved even though Gagan is quite happy about guiding others to glory. The goal is common. “We need to win more Olympic medals for the country,” he said.

It does not matter who wins them.

The trainees have to take care of their travel, stay etc., but Gagan simplifies it for them by providing practical options so that their energy is conserved and focus stays on shooting.

“After the rigours of testing and many phases of assessments and evaluation, we have finally selected these blunt pencils to be sharpened and turned into spears,” sums up Gagan about his Project Leap.