Silver stars in quest of gold

When Ayonika Paul took to shooting, she found it so boring that it took her three months to finish a basic 15-day course. But a good score in her first inter-school competition shortly after changed all that. 

She decided to go with the flow, and developed a deep liking for the sport. As she talks enthusiastically about her silver medal in the 10M air rifle in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the 21-year-old confesses that today she cannot imagine her life without the shooting range.

Ayonika lost out to compatriot Apurvi Chandela but nonetheless takes a lot of positives from the podium finish. “I prepared as well as I could and I feel I could have done better. But even the silver has given me a lot of confidence. I am now working even harder on my shots and on my physical and mental training,” she said at an event organised by the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) who manages her.

“The reason my dad introduced me into shooting was because I used to spend my summer vacations watching cartoons. I was always interested in guns but when I went to the shooting range for the first time, I found it quite boring. But today it is the most important thing. I cannot imagine anything apart from it,” said Ayonika, who recently finished her engineering,  

The World Championships at Granada, Spain in September is her next target. “The World Championships are most important for me. I have been looking forward to it for the last one year.”

For the cherubic Malaika Goel, the Commonwealth Games silver in the 10M air pistol has given her the self-belief she felt was missing in her. At 16, the Ludhiana girl was the baby of the successful shooting contingent at Glasgow which returned with 17 medals.

“All my seniors took care of me. Even my mother was there with me. I just took it as another event. I knew I had to give my best. The response from my parents and friends was amazing and they have helped me stay down to earth,” smiled Malaika, whose father, a senior police officer, built a shooting range for her at home when she decided to pursue the sport seriously. Malaika, who has been with OGQ since 2012, considers her senior compatriot Heena Sidhu as her idol before adding: “I am not a school dropout as some news reports suggested. I am doing my +2 from a regular school.”

Navy man Sanjeev Rajput, who won a silver in 50M rifle 3 position, felt liberated at winning his first medal in a multi-disciplinary event in eight years.  “The field was tough and I am glad that I was able to clinch the silver. I now want do well in the World Championships because if I do well there, then I will be confident of doing well at the Asian Games too.

“I really like to thank OGQ who have been supporting me from 2010. 

“From my equipment, to my clothing and gear, they have taken care of everything. They even provided me with a physio.”  

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