As the news of his son Sarabjot Singh winning 10m air pistol gold at the Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany, reached Jatinder Singh Sahanserwal, the farmer from village Dhin near Ambala (Haryana) rushed out of his home to buy sweets. The motorcycle ride to the market place made the father recall the 40 km daily road trip his 17-year-old son took to the Shooters Terrace Shooting Academy in Ambala where he sweated it out to be a world-class marksman.
He would drive the bike to the next village and from there he would take a bus to Ambala. He is very passionate about the sport," says the proud Jatinder. Like in most sports, the long hours of training weren’t enough for Sarabjot to be a champion. The family had to make a lot of sacrifices. "Two months after he started training, he wanted a new pistol that was worth Rs 1.5 lakh. I had to borrow money from the village commission agent, to whom we sell the crop from our 4-acre farm," said the father, who earns about Rs 2 lakh annually.
To augment his income, the father would also rent out his tractor. "I would get about 800-1000 per day. But today those tough times are forgotten. To see Sarabjot become world junior champion is the biggest earning for the family, says Sahanserwal.
Maybe, the father’s days of moving around in motorcycle are over since Sarabjot has plans to upgrade the family vehicle from the cash awards that are expected to come his way. "Winning the medal means a lot for my family. I guess I will get a small car for my family with the expected cash award, said Sarabjot.
In his hour of glory, he recalled the days of struggle. I had to travel for more than 40 km via bike and bus and it meant that I would reach my village at 8 pm. Initially, I would get tired after standing for more than one hour. So I would focus on increasing my stamina and would also try a workout with farm equipment at my home in my free time," he recalls.
Sarabjot’s first brush with the sport came about in 2014 while studying at the Bhagirath Public School, Koolpur he joined a school shooting camp. The coach at the camp, Shakti Rana, saw a spark in Sarabjot and asked him to stick to the sport. Two years later, as the academy closed, the young shooter joined the Shooters Terrace Shooting Academy that was run by the former India pistol shooter Abhishek Rana.
Singh’s first medal was a bronze in the youth category in 10m air pistol event in 2017 National Shooting Championship in Kerala, where he also finished sixth in the junior category that was dominated by top junior shooters Anmol Jain and Saurabh Chaudhary.
Last year, Sarabjot finished 12th out of 659 shooters in the senior pision of the 10m air pistol event apart from winning the title in the youth category and a fourth-place finish in juniors, where Chaudhary won the gold medal.
Coach Rana remembers Sarabjot as a disciplined student with strong shooting basics. He never skipped a day of training despite the fact that his commute would start early in the day and would end late in the evening. We worked on his trigger movement apart from increasing his stamina to stand for more than 2 hours at the range. He has been shooting scores of 577-578 regularly and before the Junior World Cup, he shot a score of 584 in the trial matches in Delhi, shares Rana.
Earlier in March this year, Sarabjot competed in his first international tournament and won the gold medal in 10m air pistol event in the Asian Airgun Championships in China with a qualification score of 579 and 237.8 in the final.
On Thursday, Sarabjot managed to make it to the eight-shooter final with the last shot of 10 in qualification with a score of 575. In the final, Singh was fourth after the first series but made a comeback to lead the final till the end and won the gold. He had four scores in excess of 10.5 and edged out Wang by 1.9 points to win the gold.
I first saw him in 2017 nationals and he has got a clam mind. In the qualification today, he spent some time on his shot as he needed a 10 to qualify. He managed to do that and he showed good form in the final. Beating a Chinese shooter in the final is always special and Sarabjot made comebacks at crucial stages in the final, shared national chief junior coach Jaspal Rana.
Sarabjot too recalls the tense moments before winning the gold. I took my time on the last shot in the qualification as I knew I can qualify for the final with a ten. It was a good final for me. Even though I shot some loose shots but I managed to come back, Sarabjot recalled.