Sanjeev Rajput is a fighter to the core. The 38-year-old, former Navy shooter, Sanjeev was at his fighting best in the 50-metre rifle 3-position event on Thursday, first in the qualifying stage and later in the final.
He delivered the Olympic quota in style with a silver medal, but conceded that he needed to "handle the situations better and improve further’’.
Sanjeev, who had won the Commonwealth Games gold and the Asian Games silver last year, to wipe out the bad memories of missing the Rio
Olympics, for no fault, said that he was distracted by the cheering by the crowd after Petar Gorsa had fired his last shot.
"As I was about to squeeze the trigger, I lost focus because of the sound and cheering. I knew that time was running out as we have only 50 seconds for the shot. I also thought that since I was leading by one point, even a nine would get me the gold. So, I just adjusted and squeezed the trigger. I missed the gold by 0.2 point. It was a lesson for me. I will not do such a thing in future’’, said Sanjeev, ever willing to learn, and imbibe the harsh lessons.
The climax was nothing compared to what he went through during the qualification in the first stage, kneeling. After releasing a good shot, Sanjeev was shocked to find the computer recording his 39th shot as zero.
‘’To me it was a 10, and in the worst scenario could be 9. So, I stood up and protested. Coach Oleg Mikhailov took up the matter with the officials. After 22 minutes, I was allowed to shoot the sighters before the 40th shot in kneeling and one additional shot as well. Others were finishing their prone session by then. A lot of thoughts came into my mind, but it helped me focus strongly on my shooting,’’, recalled Sanjeev, who had to endure the suspense and mystery of the missing shot till the competition was done.
Once everyone had finished, the officials made a physical inspection of the target, and found that all the shots were in the centre. There was nothing in zero, and upheld the protest.
Quite remarkably, Sanjeev had planned to peak in August, the same month when the Olympics is held. He got a new barrel from Switzerland in July, by utilising the TOPS funding. The advance preparation at the range in Rio during a long training camp, thanks to the good offices of coach Oleg Mikhailov who had trained the Brazilians for eight years, came handy as Sanjeev got acclimatised to his new barrel as well as the conditions.
"It was the best preparation we had. We knew every part of the range and its characteristics. The light, wind etc. play such a big part in this event," said Sanjeev.
Focusing on shooting was quite difficult, because of the various
announcements during the final.
"With three shots to go, they announced that I had won the quota. There were so many other announcements than normal which was a bit distracting, but I took it all as an experience’’, said Sanjeev, who had competed in the Beijing and London Olympics.
He had qualified for the Rio Olympics as well, but his quota was exchanged for the shotgun then, leaving him disappointed.
"I am very happy with the way I handled the competition in this World Cup, in such a top class field. Especially so, as I was competing in a final after a long time’’, said Sanjeev.
It was indeed a very high quality fare from Sanjeev Rajput.