Mairaj Ahmad Khan looks ahead to Tokyo with confidence

After missing on a couple of major tournaments, Mairaj is firmly back on the saddle, galloping towards another start to the Olympic dreams.

Mairaj Ahmad Khan has set his eyes on 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It was possibly one missed bird that cost him Olympic glory. Mairaj Ahmad Khan shot 121 out of 125 in skeet shooting in the Rio 2016 Olympics and missed the final.

In fact, five were tied on that score for the last two berths in the final. Mairaj lost the shoot-off, while Gabriele Rossetti of Italy, who made it with 121, went on to shoot the gold.

By shooting 122 out of 125, Mairaj had won the World Cup silver on the same range in Rio in 2016. Months later, it was a heartbreak in the Olympics, when he failed to break one more bird in qualification.

Out in the wilderness as he could not make it to the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games last year, Mairaj is firmly back on the saddle, galloping towards another start to the Olympic dreams.

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Mairaj topped the selection for the first three World Cups of the season, which offer Olympic quota places for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"Every shooter has low and high in his career. It was the same with me. The reason behind me not making the national team for the two important competitions last year was that I was trying a new gun which did not suit my shooting style. In a busy calendar, we don’t have the time to try new things. But, you need to be brave to take some steps like, I took in the past," said Mairaj, summing up the passage thus far.

He did have very good season in 2017, after the Olympics, shooting good scores. He is happy to get back to that rhythm.

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"I am very happy and thrilled again the same way I was in the year 2015 and 2017. I am back on my high average scores,’’ said Mairaj, who could strike an average of 121 for national selection, spread over the national championship and three trials.

"It is the way I planned my training and technique. No competition can match the Olympics. Here I am, aiming again not just for the quota this time, but the Olympic medal, Inshallah!," he said.

Despite the stiff competition, Mairaj expressed confidence about securing the Olympic quota.

"The way I am shooting and preparing, it looks easy for me to win the quota," he remarked.

Trained by Olympic gold medallist Ennio Falco in recent years, Mairaj has confidence borne out of clarity on the competitive path.

"Ennio Falco always believes in focusing on one target at a time. That is my mantra. My next target is station one, High house single, in Acapulco, Mexico," he said.

The intense focus on the sport, has not diminished Mairaj’s ability to strike a balance in life. He will not be single any more, as he will marry Zarah, a station head for a Russian Air Carrier at the Delhi airport, on February 16.

Two days before his marriage, Mairaj cannot convince himself to miss his training at the range.

"Zarah loves my passion and dedication for the sport. She believes in my hard work and has always told me that the results would follow if you persist with what you are doing’’, gushes Mairaj, happy to add strength to his conviction with a matching personality.