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Wanted: A Shot in the Arm

In a chat with actor Sonali Kulkarni,ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat stresses on the need for greater recognition for the sport

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published: July 6, 2012 3:57:55 am

In a chat with actor Sonali Kulkarni,ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat stresses on the need for greater recognition for the sport

A day before she was scheduled to take part in her first international event,the South Asian Games,in 1995,professional shooter Anjali Bhagwat was running a high fever. “Everyone was worried about my health and even my coach suggested that I give the tournament a miss. But I knew that here was my first chance to prove myself and make my country proud. I knew I couldn’t afford to miss this,so I popped some pills and went for the tournament. I ended up winning a gold medal with the team,” she recollects.

This memory is,in fact,one of several that Bhagwat shared with the audience as part of the two-hour session of ‘Loksatta Viva Lounge’ at Express Towers,Nariman Point,Mumbai,on Wednesday. An interactive property launched by Loksatta Viva,a weekly lifestyle supplement of Loksatta aimed at its young Maharashtrian women readers,Loksatta Viva Lounge celebrates the achievements of extraordinary women from different walks of life and Bhagwat was its second guest.

Even as actor and guest editor Sonali Kulkarni played host at the discussion,Bhagwat admitted that,when she first picked up a rifle,she had no idea about the sport or the fact that she would go on to master it. “As an NCC cadet,I played many sports such as kabaddi,judo and karate. I was also into mountaineering. I got my first glimpse of the world of rifle shooting around this time. I learnt it over a period of seven days and realised that I have a knack for it,” she says. Bhagwat,who has won prestigious awards such as Arjuna Award (2000) and Rajiv Gandhi Khel-Ratna (2003) after setting new records in international competitions,points out that her journey to the top was not easy. “Initially,we did not have much support from the government; we didn’t even have enough rifles and bullets to practise with. Today,the athletes have it much better,” she says,adding that her success in the sport has been the result of hard work and a strong mind.

“Shooting is all about mental power. When you have to hit a target at a certain distance,it’s about shutting out the world. So the sport teaches you to be more focussed. Luckily for me,I also had the backing of a wonderful family through thick and thin. I am grateful to them,” says the shooter,who continues to practise the sport even though she is not competing in the Olympic Games this year.

Pune-based Bhagwat is currently coaching a group of teenagers. “The right age to enter this sport is when one is 13-14 years old. That’s the time when one can be guided and the skill set can be enhanced. Though there’s a lot more awareness about the sport now,we still have a long way to go. For instance,in Germany,every household has a rifle shooter and their local clubs and associations take the initiative to encourage participation from all quarters. We need to move in that direction,” she says.

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