Rakesh Manpat, 28, moulding world class shooters

Rakesh Manpat, 28, is on a “mission”, and is “extremely happy” to be a guide to ensure quality training for his athletes, rather than put himself on the lane. World No. 1 Apurvi Chandela is one such beneficiary.

Coach Rakesh Manpat with Apurvi Chandela and Meghana Sajjanar.   -  Special Arrangement

He is too young to be a coach, but too good, not to be one!

The 28-year-old Rakesh Manpat, who beat Olympic champions Abhinav Bindra and Alin George Moldoveanu to the gold, with a borrowed weapon in the Intershoot at the Hague in 2016, has been mentoring women’s world No.1 air rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela, among others.

Rakesh also trains Meghana Sajjanar at his base in Bengaluru, where he is all set to open a second training centre, better equipped.

It has been a golden season for Olympian Apurvi this year, as she won two gold medals with world record in Delhi and Munich, apart from the mixed team silver.

“Apurvi has been mentally very strong. She is able to keep many things off the lane in control and focus on herself more than anyone else in the world. It makes her a world beater. She has been shooting well in the past as well,” said Rakesh.

After the spell of World Cups, Apurvi has been training in Bengaluru. She makes it a point to visit the centre once every two to three months.

“We are currently training in Bengaluru at our new academy. We are able to train in a very controlled environment. Depending on the need, we train overseas as well. Earlier this year we trained in the Netherlands’’, said Rakesh.

It has been a long association with Apurvi, who has been training with Rakesh from 2013. There was a break around the Olympics in Rio in 2016, but Apurvi resumed the stint in 2017.

Apart from Apurvi, Rakesh has been working with Meghana Sajjanar for the last three years.

“Some of the shooters who have been in the Indian team, and not in their best form now, do not get the attention from the coaches. I believe that the athletes who have shown calibre would reach the top again, if given the right guidance. Mentoring is done when they are down, not when they are on a high.” — Rakesh Manpat

“Meghana has shaped up well in the last three years. The second year was sensational. We changed the rifle and it was a slight burn out owing to the number of competitions she has played. Now she is able to recover well. This year she had two scores around the 630 mark. She is able to gain the confidence back. Working with the shooters on the fundamentals is where I try to match up their current determination to realise potential,” observed Rakesh.

There is demand for training from more shooters, and Rakesh feels that the two centres with a total of 12 electronic targets, and six manual targets for beginners, would help him mentor more shooters to world class standards.

“Some of the shooters who have been in the Indian team, and not in their best form now, do not get the attention from the coaches. I believe that the athletes who have shown calibre would reach the top again, if given the right guidance. Mentoring is done when they are down, not when they are on a high,” he remarked.

Rakesh is happy with the “very streamlined” domestic structure.

“Thanks to the National Federation and Sports Authority of India, for the efforts on infrastructure and man power, strong domestic competition has definitely helped many shooters develop their skills.

It will help having a senior B team to build the bench strength. It will help the A team rest a bit. Apurvi loves travelling and makes her international schedules easy on her. She is not very fussy over logistics and food. Meghana on the other hand has many issues with vegetarian food,” he said.

How does he enjoy mentoring other shooters, when he himself could be world class and aspire for world class medals.

Rakesh had beaten two of the best prone shooters, Gagan Narang and Joydeep Karmakar who placed fourth in London Olympics, to the gold in the national championship.

“I could see fellow athletes in distress. I could also see the solution. This is how the journey in mentoring started. If I had the power to solve someone’s issue, I would do it. So, I have been enjoying the challenges each person throws at me, and I have become quite good at it,” he said.

In the Elite Shooting Academy he has a good team, including sports psychologist GU Sathwik. “Together we enjoy our work, which is about 15 to 18 hours a day of late,” said Rakesh.

He continues to shoot whenever he gets the time, and Rakesh feels that he has “not lost any touch”.

Rakesh Manpat is on a “mission”, and is “extremely happy” to be a guide to ensure quality training for his athletes, rather than put himself on the lane.