Rakesh Manpat: I just won over my own jinx

Rakesh Manpat said that it was all a bonus for him, as he had not planned to enter the competition originally.

Rakesh Manpat... happy with his performance.   -  Special Arrangement

It is not every day that you beat two Olympic champions to the gold with a borrowed weapon in an event which is not your favourite in an international shooting competition and yet stay grounded about it.

Rakesh Manpat, the 24-year-old specialist rifle prone champion, was blase about beating the Beijing Olympics champion Abhinav Bindra and the reigning Olympic champion Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania, in their strong event.

“I just won over my own jinx. They can’t be beaten,” said Rakesh, quite modest when contacted in Holland, after he won the air rifle gold ahead of Bindra and the London Games champion, in the Intershoot at the Hague.

“I am just happy that on day one and three, we made it an India 1-2. It was exciting to shoot the final toe to toe. First day finals, on the penultimate shot I was leading but cracked in the last shot (9.0). On the last day, I started off well and made a mistake in between.

“I was down to sixth place after eight shots. I had to come back strongly. It was very exciting. I could relive it again and again. Bindra shoots quick. So, the pressure is on the other shooter. I shoot relatively slow. The crowd reacted to his scores. I was able to just enjoy the moment,” said Rakesh.

He had missed the gold on the last shot in the first of the three match series, but responded well to the challenge to shoot 10.3 and 10.4 in the third match, when Bindra shot 9.8 and 10.4.

Rakesh said that it was all a bonus for him, as he had not planned to enter the competition originally.

He was travelling to Germany for another purpose and was trying to help junior shooter Dilreen Gill with some guidance.

“I decided to shoot and enjoy. I didn’t shoot with my weapon. It was my shooting club weapon. Dilreen also shot well — 413 plus — on all three days in qualification for the second place. With some more experience, she will play the finals better,” he added.

After the high of 2013 when he beat Gagan Narang and Joydeep Karmakar to the gold in the national championship in the 50-metre rifle prone event, the Bengaluru based Rakesh has been struggling to recapture the high standards, and has largely suffered for lack of suitable support.

“Things have not been in my favour for the last two to three years. I am able to train only for two or three days a week with may be five per cent of ammunition compared to those from the army,” said Rakesh.

“I am now working to get the funding to prepare for the World Championship in 2018, which will offer the first quota places for the 2020 Olympics. The Karnataka State government is on the verge of supporting me,” said Rakesh.

There is no doubt about the quality or talent of the young man. The hurdles have only made him stronger and Rakesh said, “I look forward to bettering myself each day in some way.”