First lady all set to fire

Personality : Meghana Sajjanar, with impressive performances, has quietly progressed to the elite list in shooting

First lady all set to fire

Glancing through Meghana Sajjanar’s social media profile, one wouldn’t find anything that stands out. A girl in her 20s, enjoying her time with friends where selfies set the trend. But for people who have followed her journey closely, the picture is entirely different.

At 23, Meghana is already an achiever in her own right. With a clutch of medals in shooting at the national and international stage in the junior category, national champion in the 10M air rifle in the senior category and an impressive show at the prestigious InterShoot 2017 competition in The Hague, the Netherlands, where she nailed four gold medals, the Bengaluru girl is one of India’s brightest prospects.

“It’s been a good start to the season. But then it’s just the start and I have to continue this form throughout the year, and that’s a challenge,” says Meghana who is in New Delhi preparing for her first-ever ISSF World Cup event that gets underway on Wednesday. “But so far, it’s been good and I am happy with the way I have been performing. I think all the hours that I’ve put into training are helping.”

The first woman to make it to the Indian shooting team from Karnataka, Meghana’s entry into the sport was more by chance than by choice. Her brother Manas was the first one in the family to pick up a rifle. Drawn into the sport during a summer camp at the Sports Authority of India’s shooting range in Bengaluru, the elder of the two Sajjanars’ stuck to shooting for a brief period post the summers too. It was during this time that Meghana would watch her brother at the range.

“I used to go and watch him during the camps and competitions. Well, I think that’s where it all started. It looked very much interesting to me. So I tried my hand at it and I loved it,” she states.

Though Manas preferred to stick to academics, Meghana let her love for the sport grow. In 2006, she participated in her first State Championships and won silver medals in the 10M air rifle as well as the prone event. Gaining confidence from her show at the State meet, Meghana then took her performance a notch higher in 2008.

She won a gold in the 10M air rifle at the State Games and then went on to qualify for the National championships with a quality show at the All India GV Mavlankar Shooting Championship in Punjab.

“Well, it never felt like I was participating in a big competition. I was very much into the game. I enjoyed a lot. I loved being there. It was fun to shoot with many recognised shooters of the country. And I think that also helped me in performing well there.  Usually you see athletes getting carried away by the atmosphere of the competition. But in my case, nothing of that sort happened. And I think that helped me a lot in kick-starting my career well,” explains the Abhinav Bindra fan recalling her maiden experience at the National stage.

Though her confidence and love for the sport has helped her grow as a shooter without much difficulty, Meghana’s journey has had its testing periods as well. Hailing from a middle-class family, the Sajjanars’ have been pushed to the limits to support their daughter’s career at times. With equipment and ammunition costing a huge sum, they’ve been very calculative in every step of Meghana’s career.

“Well, when I started it wasn’t that expensive. The travels were limited, my rifle was a standard one and I didn’t require much ammunition then. But once I started doing well, I had to upgrade, training sessions increased, which meant the amount of ammunition I used too went up and with the international events coming into my calendar, travel expenses too increased.

“And all of this my parents have been taking care of all by themselves. And now I’ve also started shooting the .22 rifle, so expenses just seem to go up. There’s no downward trend there at least,” says Meghana, who recently completed a graduation in computer science.

Her father Mallikarjun, an engineer, shares the same emotions. “It’s an expensive sport. But then we don’t want to stop her in any way. Being civilians it’s difficult to import arms and ammunition into the country. But then the KSRA (Karnataka State Rifle Association) and the DYES (Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports) have stepped in and helped us in that respect,” he states.

Meghana though didn’t face much difficulty in gaining assistance at the range. An established name in Rakesh Manpat has been her guiding force from the beginning.

“I think I’m lucky to get someone like him. Someone to correct my mistakes, teach me the right technique and guide me since my childhood. It’s during one of the training sessions that he spotted me and agreed to help me. His tips and guidance have gone a long way in me becoming the shooter I am today,” she says about Manpat who has taken over the role of her mentor now.

Gearing up for her maiden World Cup event, Meghana hopes to put up a good show. "I want to continue my good form. And if I'm able to do that, results will follow," assures Meghana.


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