Mairaj Ahmad Khan, aiming for the bull's eye with Ennio Falco

Indian shooter Khan has been training with Falco, the Atlanta Olympics gold medallist, at his range in Capua to prepare better for the Tokyo Olympics.

Mairaj Ahmad Khan during the World Cup in Delhi in March.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

It is the final stretch of preparation for the Tokyo Games, amid the chaos of the pandemic. Mairaj Ahmad Khan is happy to be training with coach Ennio Falco, the Atlanta Olympics gold medallist, at his range in Capua, Italy.

"It was smooth travel. I reached here last week, flying through Paris to Rome. I am delighted to be training with Ennio after about two years," said the 45-year-old Mairaj, who had missed the skeet final of Rio Olympics in the shoot-off.

Having lost his father recently, Mairaj had to face rough time, but took everything in his stride, including the situation that saw him miss the World Cup in Lonato.

"I have not lost any training. I am taking it as a good recovery break for a hectic training, that is coming up from now till the Olympics. Ennio’s range in Capua is the base for me till the Olympics. I go from here to Tokyo. Before that, to some local competitions in Italy," said Mairaj, quite at home in Europe.

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Mairaj had also trained for a week at the Dr. Karni Singh Range in Tughlakabad, before boarding the flight to Rome.

Being based in Europe could be the best thing at the moment, especially with a World Cup in Osijek, Croatia, scheduled just before the Games. "We will decide next week, about shooting the World Cup, after Ennio
has a good look at what I need," said Mairaj.

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Going into the Rio Olympics in 2016, Mairaj had shot brilliantly in the World Cup in Rio that year, with 122 in qualification and eventually missed the gold in the shoot-off. After such a high, in the run-up, it was not easy to get to that intensity during the Games.

Interestingly, Marcus Svensson of Sweden who beat Mairaj to the gold in Rio World Cup, went on to bag the silver in the Rio Olympics.

Mairaj was grateful to the National federation and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for making all the arrangements in a professional way. He has trainer Jitender Arya with him for physical conditioning. The shooting happens in two sessions, from 8 a.m. and then at 3 p.m.

"We are working a lot on stretching, mobility, and the releasing drills after training. We also do a lot of core and balance exercises in the evening after training," said Mairaj.

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