Updated: July 24, 2021 9:53:12 pm
Saurabh Chaudhary’s family in Meerut’s Kalina village looked into the future instead of stewing in disappointment on what could have been a red-letter day.
The 19-year-old pistol shooter’s seventh-place finish in the 10 metre air pistol final at the Tokyo Olympics is being seen as a stepping stone within the close-knit family which owns sugarcane fields.
They also followed weightlifter Mirabai Chanu winning silver in the 49kg category, her first Olympic medal in her second appearance at the Games. It gave the Chaudhary household hope that the teenager’s time will come as he gains experience.
At his maiden Olympics Games, Chaudhary finished on top in qualification with a total of 586. But in the eight-man final, he lost out to China’s Zhang Bowen to finish seventh.
Saurabh living up to his pre-Olympic tag as one of the favourites in qualification raised hopes of the reticent but focused youngster putting the village on the world map once again after his 2018 Asian Games gold. But winning an Olympic medal was a bridge too far on Saturday.
“He tried his best but it did not work out for him,” Saurabh’s father Jagmohan says. “We must not forget how young he is. The next Olympics are just three years away. We are proud of what he has achieved. A medal would have given him a big boost, but seventh place in the final is a creditable achievement.”
Iran’s Javad Foroughi, who set a new Olympic record, Serbia’s Damir Mikec and Pang Wei of China bagged the three medals respectively. All are over 35, with Foroughi in his early forties.
Jagmohan feels Saurabh will be able to finish on the podium in Paris in 2024 as the lessons of Tokyo will be priceless.
“The weightlifter (Mirabai) who won silver today had been to the previous Olympics. All credit to her for winning a medal. With experience, one learns. Saurabh will come back strongly. He was competing against other shooters who have been to multiple Olympics and have won medals. It is not an excuse. We know he has the potential to win an Olympic medal in the future,” the father adds.
A small gathering had assembled at the Chaudhary household, including a couple of local politicians. But the family said either way there would have been no over-the-top emotions.
Moments after the setback, Saurabh’s elder brother Nitin patiently explained the rules of the sport to a neighbour who asked question without a sense of timing.
Nitin, 24, took up the sport two years ago and is well versed with the rules. His phone is constantly buzzing. Well-wishers are calling to commiserate and Nitin, hundreds of miles away from the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo, has to explain what went wrong.
“Everyone had high expectations, more so after the Asian Games gold. So, the calls are expected. I think many who followed the sport expected a medal. It is my duty to answer calls,” Nitin says.
He also takes those along who drop in from nearby on a guided tour of the shooting range built within the compound after Saurabh won the Asian Games gold. Inside the air-conditioned range, long but narrow, is a bed at one end. When Saurabh is home, this is where he shoots, rests and shoots again, Nitin says about his brother who keeps to himself.
His only other pastime is cycling around the village. When he wants to swim, he travels to Meerut.
The last time Saurabh was home, in April, he was recovering from Covid-19. “He lost about three weeks of practice, he was fatigued even after testing negative. But that is not to say he didn’t win a medal today because of the illness three months back. Saurabh told me he was feeling good before the Olympics. He is someone who is calm, no matter what happens. Of course, it will hurt him but he will not let it affect him beyond a point,” Nitin adds.
Apart from a medal not coming home, the other regret people staying around Saurabh’s house have is the further delay in paving the road with asphalt. When Saurabh won the Asian Games gold, officials had promised to complete the work in quick time. But they haven’t kept their word yet.
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