Prithviraj Tondaiman is happy to be ahead in the race for Olympic selection, in men’s trap, at the halfway stage.
The 31-year-old shooter, who had equalled a national record held by Manavjit Singh Sandhu in Jaipur, feels he has given himself a strong foundation to be well in contention for national selection, for the first three World Cups in 2019. These events offer Olympic quota places.
“I was quite sure that I would shoot a very high score in the Nationals as I had been shooting very strong in training leading up to it (sic). I even told my friends back home that I would shoot 124 and they are quite surprised that I have good prediction skills,” said Prithviraj.
Prithivraj, however, did slip to the third place in the finals of the National championship. He later improved his performance, taking the second place in the first National selection trials, even though his qualification score slipped marginally to 119. “It was a tough challenge to qualify for the final in the trials, and I was happy to shoot 50 out of 50 on the second day,” said Prithviraj, who had shot 69 out of 75 in the first three rounds.
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Leading the pack ahead of Zoravar Singh Sandhu, the young Olympian Kynan Chenai (who won the National gold), and the Asian Games silver medallist Lakshay Sheoran, Prithvraj is determined to stay strong and win his place in the national squad.
“I had a small coaching stint with Olympic gold medallist David Kostelecky in October. He helped me a great deal with minor corrections that otherwise I might have ignored. He helped me make a very good stock which is the most important aspect to shoot consistently well,” said Prithviraj, who will shoot two more national selection trials in January.
With three of the four scores counting for a shooter, Prithivraj said he had already targeted getting the Olympic quota in Mexico.
“I have been training more on single shots to improve my score in the finals. It is not that I am shooting [poorly] but I have had a few technical glitches with the gun hold. That pulled me down to No. 3 in Nationals and No. 2 in the trials. I am working on getting stronger and I am confident that I will be well prepared by March when the World Cups start,” he said.
Unlike the qualification stage, in which a shooter has the option of two shots on a target in trap, the finals demand accuracy of shooting with single shots.
Even though he has not had government support, Prithviraj is grateful for the funding from the Adithanar Educational Institutions. “I am grateful to our chairman Dr. Balasurbamanian Adithyan for the funding which has helped me a great deal and has given me the freedom to train abroad and get the best equipment,” he said.
Hailing from the ruling dynasty of Pudukkottai, Prithviraj has been able to train at a shooting range in Avarangudipatti, with one layout for trap and one for skeet, built by his father Rajagopal Tondaiman, himself an avid shooter. “Shooting and scores have improved after I started training extensively on our range. It is one of the most challenging ranges in India and perfect for rigorous training. I train there every month and more extensively before competitions. Shotgun shooting in Tamil Nadu has improved many folds after the facility was opened in 2015. We have more than 50 shooters training there on a regular basis,” he said.
The range is getting better with plans to have two layouts each for trap and skeet, apart from a club house.
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With such a background, why does he need financial support? “Though from a royal family, there are financial constraints as funds cannot be diverted only towards me. There have been other social and philanthropic issues that need the funds more than I do. My mother is still doing relief work for [cyclone] Gaja victims. I am glad that I am able to get some funds based on my achievements. That gives me more confidence and less of a burden on the family,” he replied.
Having graduated in France and followed that up with an MBA from SRM University, Prithviraj has put his career aside to focus on the Tokyo Olympics. He did aim to compete in the Rio Olympics, but things did not work out the way he wanted.
He is better prepared this time to realise his Olympic dream.
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