On Friday, afternoon in Bhopal, at the Madhya Pradesh State Shooting Academy, Mehtab Singh Yadav was hard at work checking the lighting at the indoor shooting range. The scan was nearly done when coaches came to the range bearing news that his daughter, Chinki, had just won India’s 11th quota for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But there wasn’t much time for celebration for the senior Yadav who works as an electrician with the MP Sports Department. There was another job pending – he had to check the electrical wiring at the Tatya Tope Stadium.
“Chinki’s job is to shoot, mine is to ensure that there is no problem regarding electricity at the ranges and at the other sports stadia,” Yadav says. “That’s what I was doing today when I heard about Chinki’s performance.”
In Doha, at the Asian Championships, the 21-year-old shot an impressive 588 to finish second in the qualification stage of the women’s 25m pistol event.
That was enough for her to secure India’s second ticket to Tokyo in the event – the first quota being won by Rahi Sarnobat at the Munich World Cup.
Four quota places were available at this event, and since four of the eight eventual finalists belonged to countries that had already won their maximum tally of quotas in the event, all Chinki had to do was make it to the final, where she eventually finished sixth with a score of 16.
“Chinki shot a score of 292 in precision stage and I was confident that she can qualify for the final after the rapid stage. Her strength today was her stability and she showed that in qualification. She shot well in the final too after the first series and this exposure will add to her confidence,” says junior India national coach Jaspal Rana, who also coaches at the MP State Shooting Academy.
“Her strength is her calmness and composure, and even though she faces some financial problems at home, she never let it affect her shooting and she knows that she has got one task, to shoot well. We had to make some minor adjustments in her technique in last two years and it has helped her to make the transition from junior to senior level.”
This year the youngster transitioned into the senior level, competing in all the four World Cups, and has now earned India the final available Olympic quota in the 25m women’s pistol event by shooting her highest qualification score at an international competition. Shooting though, was not her first calling – gymnastics was.
While her family stayed at their government accommodation inside the stadium complex, Chinki would initially learn gymnastics before, in 2012, she pursued her father to send her to the summer camp at the MP State Shooting Academy.
The youngster was among 15 shooters selected to train under Indian shooting coach Ved Prakash.
“With her gymnastics background, she had a flexible body and she did not face much difficulty to adjust to the requirements of pistol shooting,” Prakash recalls. “She used to spend extra hours in training and watching other shooters practice. And since she is an introvert, it helped me as a coach since she did not get distracted. Her biggest strength is her stability, and that’s what helped her today.”
In Doha, the youngster has made her mark on the shooting world, but back home, father Mehtab and mother Krishna are already clearing some space on the walls of their drawing room.
Turns out, another of Chinki’s hobbies is that she likes to paint.
Sharp-shooter and painter
“She makes a new painting every time she has some free time or if she’s won a medal,” Mehtab explains. “This time too she’s going to be returning with a big one.”
The senior Yadav though seems some extra work in the offing for him, not that he minds it. With a trip to Tokyo now in the horizon for Chinki, he predicts more practice time in the Bhopal ranges will be in order.
“Now I have to be extra careful now when checking and repairing the lights at the indoor range,” he adds, lightly. “I have to make sure they are working fine and there is no hindrance to her training with other shooters.”