New Delhi: Sometime after returning from the Asian Games last year, Rahi Sarnobat noticed a group people throwing confused, furtive glances at her in a multiplex, even as the movie ran on the screen before them. Eventually, one of them gathered the courage to ask Rahi, who had recently won India's lone medal " a gold " in the 25-metre pistol event, if she indeed was that wonder woman. "Yes, that's me," Rahi said.
The group wanted a selfie with India's shooting star, and the 28-year-old obliged them during the intermission. That casual, but lasting, recognition, had come on the back of a stunning final in Palembang, where she simply refused to succumb to the crushing tension of a double shoot-off with Thailand's Naphaswan Yangpaiboon. As she recalled that incident on Friday, it's not entirely outlandish to assume that a whiff of pressure would have sneaked past the veteran shooter's train of thought. She, however, responded in negative.
"I don't think I am under any pressure. This is my third Olympics cycle. I got a quota in one Olympics (2012), while in another (2016), I was not part of the team. So, I have experienced both highs and lows, and my thought process is very simple for this event. I am not thinking of any pressure; good performances will bring good results," she said.
That moment of instant recognition notwithstanding, Rahi insists life hasn't changed much for her post the Asian Games high, a steep spike in the number of selfie seekers notwithstanding.
"More people recognise me now, but as athletes, we know that after big events such as Asian Games, everybody wants a piece of you. However, after the buzz dies down, you are back on your own. So, I am back on the track and raring to go," the Pune-based shooter said.
The 20-28 February competition offers 16 quota places for next year's Tokyo Olympics, and Rahi is confident that the familiarity with venue and crowd support will push her to desired excellence.
"My strength is my performance in the final. If I make it to a final, I always end up on the podium. If I enter the final, I think my work is done. Olympic quotas, of course, make this event very important, but I am confident since we'll be playing on the home turf. Karni Singh range is almost like a second home for us, because we come here for camps and training. The weather is very good too, so all things seem to be to our advantage.
"Also, there will be good crowd support. I remember during the 2010 Commonwealth Games here, the crowd gave me a lot of strength. I am hoping the same this year."
Rahi started working under former Olympic medallist and world champion Munkhbayar Dorjsuren in 2017, and the incremental progress, she insists, will bear results soon.
"I have been working under Munkhbayar since 2017. We have planned our course of action till 2020. In the first year, the focus was to work on my basic technique; then we moved on to some experiments. Now, all the innovations have been done, and it is time to perform. The time has come to prove myself again," she signed off.