Adarsh Singh is a leftie in what is predominantly a right-hander’s sport. He’s played two games that demand high levels of mobility – he was a wicket-keeper for his school’s cricket team and simultaneously, was in the badminton team as well. Now, he practices an art where staying still is the mantra. Adarsh wasn’t born to shoot. Somehow, though, he’s a natural.
He’s just 17. Next month, the commerce student will appear for his board exams. Before that, however, he will go toe-to-toe with some of world’s finest pistol shooters to earn a quota for next year’s Tokyo Olympics when the season’s first World Cup gets underway here on February 23.
The 25m rapid fire is one of India’s stronger events. And Adarsh is currently the country’s best in it, a title he claimed by winning the gold in the rapid fire event at the National Championships last December. The medal, in his first senior tournament, was an ideal culmination to a breakthrough year, where he won team gold at the Junior World Championship in 25m standard pistol, along with silver and bronze in team events of 25m rapid fire and 10m free pistol, respectively, of the World Cup.
His high scores and podium finishes in these tournaments were mostly eclipsed by some overwhelming performances in what turned out to be a coming-of-age year for Indian shooting. After Saurabh Chaudhary, Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala, Adarsh is the latest in the assembly line of teenaged shooters who have emerged in the last 12 months.
They are all more or less the same age and most belong to the same region. Certain traits are common to all. Most striking is the fearlessness, and the confidence. But Adarsh’s journey is what sets him apart. “Till five years ago, I was playing cricket and badminton. But I had severe back pain so I could not continue. My sister is a shooter as well and my father is very interested in the sport. He suggested I should give it a shot. That’s how it began,” says Adarsh.
The back pain, he says, was traced back to a medical condition he was diagnosed with when he was a newborn. Adarsh was just six days old when the doctors spotted a lump near his spine. It was treated following a complex surgery, “but I had never really experienced any kind of pain before. But I indulged in two activities that really had an impact. Wicket-keeping and badminton weren’t ideal sports I guess,” he laughs.
Adarsh dropped out from the cricket and badminton teams and his father Harinder, a businessman who deals in real estate, advised him to take up shooting. “There was a decent range in my school so that helped. I was 12 when I took up the sport,” he says.
Luckily for him, the back injury didn’t resurface. But there was another hurdle – Adarsh is a left-handed shooter and since most are righties, he couldn’t find equipment that would be suitable for him. So he borrowed his sister Riya’s pistol, and began shooting without bothering to change the grip — it’s almost like a left-handed batsman using a right-hander’s glove. After he made some progress, Adarsh got his own grip but continued to share the weapon with his sister.
His rise coincided with state-mates Bhaker and Bhanwala, and the trio went on to form the core of the junior national team. Adarsh is the last among the three to be drafted into the senior squad and while the other two have already made waves by medalling at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, Adarsh is hoping the Delhi edition will act as a springboard for him.
There’s a distraction, however. “My board exams start on March 2. So I’ll have to juggle between studies and shooting,” he says. Adarsh adds with a mischievous grin that he has attended school for just 4-5 days in the whole of last year. “My teachers conducted separate classes for me in the last few months…they completed the syllabus and now I have to revise,” he says.
Studies, though aren’t on top of the soon-to-be World Cupper’s mind. Not for the moment, anyway.