The Hit List

A guide to the best in the world of women’s trap shoot­ing, and what Chowd­hary is go­ing to be up against at the Olympics

India Today - - COVER STORY -

ven­tion when he en­cour­aged her to take up shoot­ing in Delhi, where she was pur­su­ing a bach­e­lors de­gree at Je­sus and Mary Col­lege. “Much to my mother’s ire, I was bunk­ing classes to go shoot at the Tugh­lak­abad range with dad, and I could pick the kind of shooter I wanted to be,” she says. Ini­tially she had no gun to prac­tice with and shot with bor­rowed car­tridges, be­cause of their as­tro­nom­i­cal cost. Like most In­dian chil­dren who dare to go off the beaten path of ex­ams, 90 per cent cut- offs and col­lege de­grees, Chowd­hary too strug­gled with her fam­ily when she chose the shoot­ing range over MBA classes. “My fa­ther was my mo­ti­va­tion through it all, and would whisk me away for prac­tice. He fought for me till I was able turn my fam­ily’s opin­ion, and now, they’re of­ten more clued in to the sport than I am,” she laughs. Sushil, an ace skeet shooter him­self, ac­com­pa­nies his daugh­ter to tour­na­ments around the world. “He keeps my spir­its up even when I shoot badly. You need that kind of sup­port as a sportsper­son,” she adds.

Chowd­hary shot dou­ble trap till 2004, and was part of In­dian shoot­ing team, when the In­ter­na­tional Body for Shoot­ing scrapped dou­ble trap for women as an Olympic

You can only ex­cel in some­thing you are pas­sion­ate about. And that pas­sion knows no bar­ri­ers.

sport. It came as a blow to her, es­pe­cially since she’d helped In­dia win its first bronze in the sport at the Asian Clay Cham­pi­onships in 2003. “All the time I had in­vested came to naught since it was no longer an Olympic event. I wanted to get some­where with my shoot­ing and I was de­ter­mined to com­pete at the ul­ti­mate global stage,” she claims. In 2005 Chowd­hary made the bold move of shift­ing from dou­ble trap to trap, a much faster sport. “It in­volves the fear of the un­known,” says the shooter, “be­cause one has no idea about the tra­jec­tory of the clay pi­geon in sin­gle trap. All you know is that it’s go­ing to come out at an un­known tra­jec­tory and at high speed, and you just have to take your aim.”

Cur­rently train­ing with her coach Mar­cello Dradi in Italy, Chowd­hary spends four to five hours at the range, fol­lowed by a gym rou­tine. “I train five days a week and work on flex­i­bil­ity, mus­cle re­lax­ation and vi­su­al­i­sa­tion tech­niques with my coach. In trap shoot­ing, the de­cid­ing fac­tor is who holds it to­gether on the day of the com­pe­ti­tion,” she says. She be­gan train­ing with­out any pro­fes­sional help and sub­se­quently picked up some bad habits, which took a while to get rid of. “Un­for­tu­nately I lost out on some time ini­tially, but train­ing with Dradi has boosted my con­fi­dence,” she says.

Shoot­ing trap is a gru­el­ing test of nerves, and the mar­gin for er­ror, vey low. Last July, Chowd­hary ex­pe­ri­enced this first hand when she lost out on win­ning an en­try to the Olympics in her first at­tempt at the World Cup in Mari­bor, Slove­nia. “I shot a per­sonal best score of 72/ 75 but did badly in the qual­i­fy­ing shoot- off that fol­lowed.” She got her next shot at the World Cham­pi­onships at Bel­grade, where Chowd­hary found her­self in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, hav­ing scored an­other im­pres­sive 72. This time how­ever, she was pre­pared for the shoot- off, and fin­ished fourth to clinch an Olympic berth. “I’m dis­ap­pointed that I missed the gold, but thrilled that In­dia fi­nally had a place in the women’s trap event,” she says. Ask her about suc­cess and fail­ure and she’s ready with a weath­ered re­sponse, and an in­sight that be­lies her young years. “Sport hum­bles you to an ex­tent where you learn to take both suc­cess and fail­ure in your stride. Be­ing com­pla­cent isn’t an op­tion,” she says. Ask her about spon­sor­ship and she’s a lit­tle more di­rect. ‘ When I started, spon­sor­ship for Olympic sports was minis­cule. No one went all out for us the way Sa­hara sup­ported cricket.” Chowd­hary found ready back­ers in the form of the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), a not- for- profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, founded by for­mer bad­minton cham­pion Prakash Padukone and bil­liards wiz Geet Sethi, that spon­sors Olympians. She wishes, how­ever, that such help would be uni­form and wide­spread in its im­pact. “As sports­peo­ple, we lack the kind of ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect that the Amer­i­cans and Chi­nese get. It’s a pow­er­ful feel­ing to know that an en­tire na­tion is back­ing you. Sadly, that sen­ti­ment is yet to build in In­dia for any­thing apart from cricket,” says Chowd­hary.

My fa­ther fought for me till the rest of my fam­ily came around to my cho­sen path.

While she misses the con­ven­tional forms of sup­port that cricket gets, the pock­ets of en­cour­age­ment that have sprung up are con­fi­dent that she’s go­ing to make an im­pact. “Her men­tal strength is her key as­set,” says Sethi. Viren Rasquinha, for­mer cap­tain of the In­dian hockey team and CEO of OGQ, adds, “Her tech­nique, tem­per­a­ment and self be­lief can help over­come the pres­sure. Her form had dipped a bit but in the last three months of train­ing, her scores have been ex­cel­lent.” The swelling num­ber of In­dian women shoot­ers is a mat­ter of great pride for Chowd­hary. “Women need to see sport as an ac­ces­si­ble, pro­fes­sional ca­reer. I would be glad if my suc­cess can spur oth­ers to try,” she says. An Olympic medal would surely do the trick. Now if only we could get over the IPL.

REUBEN SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

Daddy’s Girl: Chowd­hary with fa­ther Sushil

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