Annu Raj and Shweta ready to make it count in Rio

Annu Raj Singh and Shweta Singh will be competing in the last World Cup of the season in Rio, and aspire to win the second Olympic quota for Tokyo 2020, in air pistol.

Annu Raj Singh and Shweta Singh have returned to the national air pistol team for Rio World Cup.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

They are two of the best women pistol shooters in the country, with a
wealth of experience.

Annu Raj Singh and Shweta Singh will be competing in the last World Cup of the season in Rio, and aspire to win the second Olympic quota for Tokyo 2020, in air pistol.

The young Manu Bhaker had won the Olympic quota in the event in Munich, and a country can win a maximum of two quota for Olympics in an event.

It was in 2002 in the World Championship in Lahti, Finland, that Shweta had made a lasting impression by shooting 382 out of 400 in air pistol. She was placed fourth then, and had missed a medal on the same score, on the count back format.

The 32-year-old Shweta, who works with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), has diligently focused on the sport to compete in five World Championships, and three Asian Games. She did win the Asian Games individual bronze in Incheon in 2014.

What is admirable about Shweta is that she has retained the love for the sport and competes hard, despite marriage and being blessed with a baby boy.

"I am happy to make the main team for the last World Cup of the season. To return to the team was tough because of many reasons. Post pregnancy and delivery, I had lost the fitness, and gained the responsibility of being a parent. It was hard to spare time for training_physical, mental and technical. But, my husband supports me and has taken the responsibility of taking care of our child. I worked full force, covering all training needs and made the World Championship team last year’’, recalled Shweta, about her intricate journey in recent times.

In the new 60-shot format in air pistol, Shweta shot 568 in the World Championship. She will compete in the format only for the second time in a global competition as part of the national team.

‘’I used my savings for participating in open tournaments abroad for more exposure and paid hefty fees to mental and physical trainers. I trusted my abilities and worked hard. I was missing selection for the national team by 0.1 point or one point. I am happy that all my sacrifices and hard work are paying off. I am even more motivated and the training camp in Rio will help me prepare better’’, said Shweta.

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With just the Asian Championship offering the last set of Olympic quota, the national team will try capitalise on the World Cup in Rio to increase its tally of seven Olympic quota places so far.

Unlike Shweta, Annu Raj, who is with Air India, has been competing in the 25-metre sports pistol team, after having represented the country in the London Olympics, by virtue of having won the silver medal in the World Cup in Fort Benning when she had shot an impressive qualification score of 389.

The last time when Annu made the national team in air pistol in a World Cup was in 2015.  The 35-year-old Annu will be competing in the 60-shot air pistol for the first time in a global competition.

‘’I don’t think making the team in itself is a noteworthy achievement. It is just the first step. I shoot because, i enjoy the sport. I don’t think much about the Olympic quota etc. It would be nice to get it. It is more about being able to follow the process’’, said Annu.

She conceded that it was important to have a strong performance at that level, to boost one’s confidence as being part of the elite bunch in the world.

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The young shooters like Manu Bhaker, Esha Singh or for that matter Yashaswini Deswal, the Youth Olympics finalist, who has consolidated her place in the team, shoot the big events with ease.

‘’The knowledge now available within the system for young shooters, along with funding for the junior program, is helping them get there faster. For them, transition is the key. Earlier, we would look at our seniors and learn. Now, the juniors motivate me to give my best’’, said Annu.

In the recent, Sardar Sajjan Sethi Masters shooting in the Capital, Annu won the gold in mixed air pistol with Deepak Sharma, while Shweta won the silver with Amanpreet Singh.

The two skipped the individual event, to focus on their training, and be ready for the big event.