Heena Sidhu’s trip back home to Mumbai from Glasgow — her second Commonwealth Games — wasn’t as cheerful as the journey from New Delhi four years ago. A seventh-place finish in the women’s 10 metre air pistol final was least expected by the former world number one. In fact, expectations were on the 24-year-old to better the silver she had won in 2010.
Currently rated fifth in the world according to International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) rankings, Sidhu says she hadn’t prepared well enough for the finals. Instead, her focus was on the qualifying rounds since she had bowed out at that stage in June’s ISSF World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia. “I started training hard for the qualifying rounds. That worked according to plan since I topped the qualifiers in Glasgow. But in the process I neglected my focus on the finals,” she says.
Another setback that served as a distraction, albeit a minor one, occurred during the moments leading up to the finals. Over the years she has grown accustomed to taking the few minutes available before shooting to calm her mind and focus on the event. Yet, on this occasion, the jury prohibited athletes from setting their tables with their guns and ammunition. Only their respective team coaches were allowed to place the equipment from the travel bags.
“I got very nervous. I had two identical guns but preferred one over the other. I kept hoping the coach would give me the right one. Eventually I got lucky, but I lost the time to mentally prepare myself because the jury asked us to start shooting immediately,” Sidhu mentions.
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The unexpected development, coupled by her own admission about her lack of preparation for the finals are some of the aspects she hopes to overcome ahead of the 51st ISSF World Championships in September. Immediately after the World Championships is the Asian Games, but Sidhu says the former tops her list of priorities.
“In shooting, the World Championships is the biggest prize. There are over 200 of the best shooters in the world participating here. That’s what makes this bigger than the Olympics because there you have just 35 or so competing,” she says. She further states that she is happy the tournament is being held before she travels to Incheon, South Korea. “That way I’m fresher in Spain,” she adds.
Nonetheless, the 2010 Asian Games silver medallist is looking to improve her record when the event commences, barely a week after she is done with her campaign in Spain. “It’s going to be very difficult not only because of the travel fatigue, but also because of the level of competition compared to the CWG,” explains Ronak Pandit, Sidhu’s husband and coach.
“In Glasgow, the main opponents were England, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. But at the Asiad, Malaysia and Singapore are joined by Japan, the two Koreas, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and China. It’s much harder,” he says.
Her focus may be on defending her the World Championships in Spain, but she is also looking for a chain reaction leading from her European outing. “I’ll be very confident if I do well there and that will give me a boost when I go to the Asian Games,” she states.