When he won gold in the 10m air rifle competition at the ISSF world championship in Cairo last week, 18-year old Rudrankksh Patil announced himself as the next big thing in Indian shooting.
At a Zoom press conference, the 18-year-old who won an Olympic quota for India, spoke about how he stayed relaxed while trailing 10-4 in the final, the challenge he faces in ensuring he travels to the Paris Olympics and what he learned from the last Indian to win World Championship gold in the 10m air rifle – Abhinav Bindra.
Rudrankksh also spoke about how losses early in his career were critical in shaping him today.
You were trailing in the World Championship finals (he was down 10-4). How were you able to come back?
We have been taught relaxation techniques during this crucial period but I had a short break, which the foreign coach (Thomas Farnik) took for one minute (when the score was 10-4). He reminded me of the relaxation exercises and I was able to calm myself in that crucial period.
The past experience of playing in Cairo at the World Cup this year was an inspiration, because I came ninth in that competition, so I had a huge hunger to win this time. It is because of that, I was able to bring back my consciousness and focus and relax myself; I knew that if I had to provide some value to my training it’s the right time to relax.
The one-minute break which my coach took was a huge confidence booster and a great move to help me calm down at that time.
With the Olympic quota only going to the country, how confident are you about going to the Paris Olympics?
I have seen my progress on a personal level, I have been growing steadily from 2019 itself. I have a set of processes and I have a good team and support and if I continue with these processes, I believe I will do well in the 2024 trials which will enable me to be selected for the Olympics as well.
What is the challenge posed by Indian shooters shooting high scores right now, since the person performing the best gets the quota?
I think the person who deserves the most will go to the Olympics. The person who works the hardest will be the one who deserves the most. It’s important for me to learn from my colleagues.
They are experienced from having played at the Olympics and previous World Cups, so I take tips from them. Also, being the youngest helps because they treat me like a younger brother, they help me grow as well. When we talk about seeing each other as competitors, we are competitors but we are only competitors on the field. Outside the range we are friends, we are like brothers. Our coaches also maintain a good environment which is required for good performance.
You started your career in 2015 but you say you have been growing steadily since 2019. What happened before that in 2018?
2018 wasn’t a great year, because I was coming fourth in almost every competition. However, the coaches told me at that time to learn and improve. I was able to see the mistakes I made, observe and grow out of that phase. Then in 2019, I won six international medals. I was 15-years-old at that time. Those six medals were a huge confidence booster, which enabled me to get selected, for the junior world championships in 2021. That was a major competition for me and my previous good results helped me with the confidence I needed to win a silver. With that many medals, it gave me the confidence that I have the calibre and potential and I can grow quite well.
How did you learn from that year and have you worked with a psychologist?
In 2018, when I had a series of bad matches, I started working with a renowned psychologist, Dr. Nadkarni, who lives in Thane. He helped me a lot during that period. He started my thinking process. He explained to me the exact mental pattern when we think. He taught me how to relax in that (difficult) period. He taught me the connection between the subconscious and conscious mind. He taught me how to train the subconscious mind and how we can focus our conscious mind.
Again when I was having bad matches, my coaches told me that later on if I won matches, these matches would be a great step-up for me. Because if I hadn’t lost these matches, then I wouldn’t have won today. This year, I played two world cups in Cairo and Baku. I came seventh in Baku and ninth in Cairo. I was able to learn from that experience. I had a huge hunger and motivation to move forward and improve and that led to the World Championship gold.
That gold was the first for an Indian in the 10m air rifle at the World Championships since Abhinav Bindra. Have you been inspired by Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang (who won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics)?
The main reason I started shooting was because my parents were very inspired by Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang sir. Abhinav sir winning a gold in 2008 was a great support for the field of shooting itself. When I started shooting, I was aiming for the Olympics. But now when I have started growing, I have seen how they have trained and how they were able to shoot with good technique and make good scores. With the help of that knowledge, that I am able to apply right now, I am able to gain from their experience.
I have been in contact with both of them and they are guiding me quite well. Abhinav and Gagan sir usually give me technical advice. They tell me that every match is a good experience, whether you win or lose. They also ask me to learn from them because the experience counts for the next competition.
What is the role played by your supporting staff?
In my team, we have physios, psychologists and nutritionists. My sponsors give me financial help which also helps me in improving technically and tactically. We have plans and processes that have been put in place from 2019. I know which patterns help me perform and which processes help me get to peak form. That process is working right now and its something that keeps improving. That is what is helping me right now.
At the World Championships, you beat a field that included all but one of the finalists of the Tokyo Olympics. How were you able to overcome the fact that a big shooter is standing next to you?
When I had my first World Championships (Junior World Championships), I didn’t know the name of anyone and I won silver. Then I had a domestic match and I knew the names of all the players and all their history and I felt a lot of pressure. Later in my journey, I realised that it is best to be within yourself at that time. It doesn’t matter who is standing beside you because on that day we cannot guarantee who is going to win. That is the nature of shooting. If we follow our process and give what we have in training first and then if we win a medal it’s great and if we don’t it’s also good and we can improve ourselves.
The Paris Games are very important for Indian shooting especially after the poor show at the 2020 Olympics. Do you ever think about what happened in Tokyo and do you feel pressure about turning that result around?
I would like to stay in the present. I focus on processes and believe in my team. As long as I focus on my process, and move just as I have done till now, then we will achieve what we have aimed for. If I have to speak about what I’ve learned from Tokyo then, I have seen one thing which is common to all shooters, which is, everyone has good matches and bad matches. I have yet to discuss with them what has happened, but if you ask me about 2024, I will just like to be in the present and focus on the processes like I have been doing.
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