Video Journalist: Sumit Badola
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman & Mohd Ibrahim
Life has come a full circle for veteran Indian shooter Gagan Narang. From Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2011 to Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar this year, Narang has seen the best of both worlds.
On 29 August, Narang, along with Pawan Singh, received the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar from President Ramnath Kovind for his Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation (GNSPF), which trains budding shooters and looks after the development at grass root level.
Started in 2011 along with Pawan Singh, who is the joint secretary general of NRAI, GNSPF now has centres in 10 cities.
"“When I started the academy along with Pawan Singh, we kind of decided that we would address all the issues that we faced during our sporting career and address it in the small little way we can. I am happy that I am able to give back to a sport that I got so much out of.”" - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
Narang mentioned that stress has always been on providing world-class facilities and equipment to talented shooters at a subsidised cost. And he believes that the organisation has been successful in living up to their motto.
“We got foreign coaches from abroad to the academy. We got gunsmiths. We got the right kind of equipment at cheaper prices because then they can be given at a subsidised cost to shooters, who are talented or want to get into the sports,” said Narang.
"“So, we reduced the entry level barrier from then of Rs 2.5-3L to Rs 5,000 -7,000, which is basically a fraction of a cost to buy a gun.” " - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
Narang, who won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, is probably one of the few athletes who is mentoring young athletes as well as managing his own career at the same time. Despite the hectic schedule, Narang calls it a ‘blessing in disguise’.
“Everything revolves around shooting for me whether it is my shooting or mentoring other athletes. And I am happy to do that,” added Narang.
Narang said that training young kids at the shooting range is one of the best ways to spend free-time or break-time during practice.
"“I think when you are at a particular shooting place and you are taking a two-hour break, there is no harm in taking a look at a young kid practicing at the range and kind of help him with the right kind of mentoring and guidance.”" - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
Twenty-year-old Elavenil Valarivan, who recently won a gold in the 10m Air Rifle Women Junior at the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in Rio, is also a product of Narang’s academy.
Ela, as Narang addresses her, is part of the young brigade of Indian shooters, who are taking the world by storm. Manu Bhakar, Saurabh Chaudhury, Anish Bhanwala are the other young shooters who are changing the face of Indian shooting globally.
And as Narang puts it, the defining change that this new generation has brought in is in their thinking, their mentality and the confidence they have.
"“Our seniors wanted to just qualify for the Olympics. We as youngsters back then wanted to win an Olympic medal and these youngsters now just want to win gold at the Olympics. So that is basically the change Indian sports and Indian shooting has seen over the years.” " - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
“The youngsters have no excess baggage behind them. I think they are pretty motivated and challenged in their own right and they already have performances to look up to,” said Narang.
Narang also credited ex-players and the national federation for the role they are playing in this development.
"“A lot of ex-players and sporting icons have got into giving back to the sports and got into coaching. And I think the information that they gathered from their experience is coming back into the system.”" - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
“And that is one particular aspect as to why we are able to produce youngsters who are winning medals. Number two, I think the federation has a very strong, solid junior development programme and that is producing results at the junior level,” added Narang.
Narang explained the whole process how Olympic qualification in shooting is different from other sports.
"“In shooting you need to win World Cup medal and get quota places. It is not just shooting a qualification score. And people are medallists in their own respective events. So, the competition is of very high level.”" - Gagan Narang, veteran Indian shooter
Narang was optimistic about India’s chances and said that the Indian contingent is much better prepared than for Rio.
But as far as his own chances of making it to his fifth Olympic was concerned, Narang was pretty realistic and practical about it.
“I am not thinking too far ahead. I am taking one step at a time. We have a couple of competition lined up so if I shoot well in the competitions, I will probably have a chance to Tokyo, but it is still a far-fetched plan,” Narang concluded.
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