Mairaj is ready to scale greater heights

Saying that his training had been good and that he had shot 123 in a local competition in Delhi recently, Mairaj said that he had the confidence and technique to beat the field.

Mairaj Ahmad Khan... a notch above the rest.

Winning the National championship was no big achievement for Mairaj Ahmad Khan, but to fight the odds and a strong field at the end of a very demanding and draining season, showed that he was ready to scale greater heights as an exceptional skeet shooter.

The 41-year-old Mairaj had won the National skeet title four times earlier, which included a hat-trick of golds from 2009 to 2011. After a lull, when he kept improving at the international level, Mairaj showed everyone that he could put things together when he wished.

"It has been a tough season. My gun was malfunctioning in the final, as you saw. I am taking it to Italy to get things ready for the next season," said Mairaj, giving a hint about the load that he and the gun had to endure.

Having won the silver in the Rio World Cup early in the season, shooting 121 out of 125 in the Olympics in Rio, placing fourth in the World Cup Final in Rome, and winning the bronze in the Asian shotgun championship recently in Abu Dhabi has been a satisfying experience for Mairaj.

He vows that coach Ennio Falco had made a world of change to the fortunes of Indian skeet. "I was not as fresh as many others. Once you get into a competition you keep fighting. I was just focusing on target after target. The qualification score is important for national selection for next season. So, one had to be sharp," said Mairaj, as he assessed the scenario.

Saying that his training had been good and that he had shot 123 in a local competition in Delhi recently, Mairaj said that he had the confidence and technique to beat the field.

"It is not just me. The whole skeet team is getting better. Skeet is the main event for Indian shotgun. It is a good start for the next season for Indian skeet," said Mairaj, who constantly encourages all the juniors, guides them and keeps them relaxed.

He is definitely a notch above the rest as he showed by qualifying with a score of 120 out of 125, two points better than the next best.

"I am pushing the team and the overall standard is going up. They all keep me on my toes. Amrinder Cheema shot the final very well. But,once he missed in the gold match, I was sure of taking the title," said Mairaj, who has built confidence, matching his rich experience.

It was his maiden Olympics and Rio has been a memorable experience for Mairaj, but he missed the knock-out narrowly and placed ninth. He is keen to build on the knowledge and make a leap in the Tokyo Olympics.

"Tokyo, here I come," he says in style and with conviction. However, when pointed out that there will be World Championships before the Tokyo Games, which will be a good stage to announce his readiness for the Olympics, Mairaj concedes that "Inshallah," he would achieve that target as well, along the way.

Having shot 122 out of 125 in the last World Championship when he secured the Olympic quota with a seventh place, Mairaj believes that he has to just keep doing the good work and follow the right practices under the guidance of the Atlanta Olympics champion Ennio Falco, to keep knocking all the targets in sight.

If he succeeds in that, the world class medals would automatically enrich his collection.