Inspired by Sarnobat's exploits, Unhalkar ‘confident’ of doing well at Tokyo Paralympics

The 33-year-old Unhalkar, who hails from Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, bagged a quota for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2019, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he could not train last year.

Swaroop Unhalkar, who hails from Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, bagged a quota for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2019,   -  Special Arrangement

Tokyo Paralympics-bound shooter Swaroop Unhalkar, who will compete in the 10m Air Rifle Standing event, is inspired by the exploits of able-bodied markswoman Rahi Sarnobat and wants to do his best in the marquee Games.

The 33-year-old Unhalkar, who hails from Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, bagged a quota for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2019, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he could not train last year.

“I take inspiration from Rahi, she practises hard continuously and her attitude is like whichever match she competes in, she wants to bag a medal. There is a to learn from her and she definitely is an inspiration,” Unhalkar told PTI in an interview at the ‘Gun For Glory’ shooting academy here on Tuesday.

Tokyo Olympics-bound Sarnobat, who also hails from Kolhapur, is currently training in Croatia and she won a gold medal on Monday in the women's 25m pistol event in the ISSF World Cup in Osijek.

But thanks to special permission from the authorities, he could train during the lockdown-like restrictions which were in place in Maharashtra for two months this year.

READ | Shooting World Cup: Rahi Sarnobat wins gold in 25m pistol

Unhalkar is hoping to do his best in the Tokyo Paralympics scheduled from August 24 to September 5.

“I sincerely hope that I will bag a medal at Paralympics. The way I am practising for the past two-four months, I am confident that I can win a medal,” he said.

“The preparations for the Paralympics started since I bagged the quota in 2019, following which we planned a work-out on how we can bag a medal at the Games but after that COVID pandemic started and our practise stopped and the entire 2020 went without practice."

He said he was doing a bit of practice in Kolhapur at a local range and then shifted to Pune after the state government lifted the lockdown in December last year.

"I started working with my coach Kiran Khandare from the Gun for Glory shooting academy,” said Unhalkar, who was introduced to para-sports by his friends in his native town.

Unalkar is well-aware that several restrictions could be imposed during the Paralympics in Tokyo in view of the ongoing pandemic and this could be a challenge.

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“There are many restrictions imposed by the Japan government like we need to travel with less people and we have to go 5-6 days prior to the competition and after our event we need to leave the venue.

"There is also a possibility that we may have to go without our coach, so this is challenging. But we have to accept it and perform well and bag a medal,” said the para-shooter, whose event will be held on August 30.

Unalkar feels that the national camp to be held in New Delhi before the Paralympics will be “crucial”.

“Our national camp is beginning from July 1 in New Delhi, where I will join and in that one and half months, we will be in a bio-bubble, and we will practise there.

"The camp will be crucial for the Paralympics as we will not be able to train in Japan. So, we will have to do maximum practice in the camp before going to Tokyo. The focus will be on the basics and how to be mentally ready for the event," he signed off.

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