Jitu targets golden debut

Jitu targets golden debut

Jitu targets golden debut

The quiet presence of Jitu Rai got prominence following his glorious performances two years ago. Heavyweights Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang can easily consume the spotlight in Olympics but Jitu, too, has succeeded in carving a space of his own. Among the largest Indian shooting contingent to the Games, he is today looked upon as a medal contender.

For Jitu, who will be participating in his maiden Olympics, a spectacular 2014, when he won gold medals at Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Cup, gave way to a rather dry spell in 2015. To his relief, he returned to winning ways this year, a silver medal in the 10M air pistol event at World Cup in Baku being the latest addition. Only an Olympic medal is now missing from his cabinet.

The 29-year-old marksman, who will be competing in 10M air pistol and 50M pistol, hoped he could become the third shooter from the army to win an Olympic medal. Before him Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2004) and Vijay Kumar (2012) had bagged medals, both silver, for India.

He acknowledged his medal at Baku came at the right moment. “The last year was really tough for me. It was very important to win the medal before Olympics. I wasn’t able to win for the past few months. So it has definitely come at a crucial time,” admitted Jitu.

In fact, last year stood out in stark contrast to 2014, where he had won seven medals, including a silver in World Championships in Granada, Spain that sealed his Rio Games berth.

In 2015, he could make only two finals in the four World Cups, participating in both 10M air and 50M pistol events. The only silver lining was his bronze in 10M air pistol in Changwon World Cup besides a final place in the World Cup at Gabala.

“I wasn’t really able to figure out where I was committing mistakes. But now I believe I have understood. Maybe it was important for me to go through that phase,” said the soft-spoken marksman, who was the first Indian shooter to qualify for Rio Olympics.

Jitu, who is in the 11th battalion of the Gorkha Regiment, had been putting a lot of emphasis on mental training. “As shooters we lay a lot of focus on mental training. We try to keep our mind as clear as possible going into our events. I also meditate and focus on my physical fitness. There are various exercises I do on a regular basis,” said Jitu, who was once turned back from the Army Marksmanship Unit in Mhow for being not up to the mark.

He bounced back from that set back to be an asset to the shooting squad that will line up with high hopes in Rio.

“It’s all about controlling your fear. I know the atmosphere at the Games’ venue will be nothing like I have ever seen before, but the equipment and range is going to remain the same," says a confident Jitu.

Hailing from Nepal, Jitu gave credit to the Indian army for grooming into him into an international level shooter.

“Had army not been there, I wouldn’t have achieved all this.  I had little idea about this sport or for that matter even Olympics. But my seniors in army taught me a lot, be it discipline or the nuances of shooting. I could never have afforded such a training on my own,” he said.

Jitu expressed a strong desire to win an Olympic medal on his debut. “Olympics is dream of every athlete and we give our all towards that. I have got the exposure trips I wanted and I believe I am peaking at the right time. My focus is only on winning an Olympic medal. There is no such thing as pressure for me,” he signed off.
DH News Service

Men: Abhinav Bindra (10M air rifle), Mairaj Ahmad Khan (skeet), Prakash Nanjappa (50M pistol), Gagan Narang (10M air rifle, 50M rifle prone, 50M rifle 3 position), Jitu Rai (10M air pistol, 50M pistol), Chain Singh (50M rifle prone, 50M rifle 3 position), Gurpreet Singh (10M air pistol, 25M rapid fire pistol), Kynan Chenai (trap), Manavjeet Sandhu (trap).
Women: Apurvi Chandela (10M air rifle), Ayonika Paul (10M air rifle), Heena Sindhu (10M air pistol, 25M pistol).