At the end of the fourth and final round in the women’s double trap final, Shreyasi Singh and Australia’s Emma Cox were tied at 96 at the top of the leaderboard. A shoot-off beckoned and the momentum was with the Indian. She had used the fourth round to miraculously make up for the seven-shot deficit accumulated through the previous rounds.
But there was another driving force— a promise she made to herself eight years ago. It could have been a potentially overwhelming moment, but Shreyasi (26) confidently shot down both the targets, with almost graceful nonchalance.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow four years ago, she won the silver. But in Australia, she won the gold. That journey to gold began eight years ago.
In June 2010, she was in London as her mother, Putul Kumari, watched over her ailing father Digvijay Singh, then the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president and a former central minister. He was in England on an official visit for the CWG that India would host months later, but suffered a brain haemorrhage. The trials for the 2010 Games were just around the corner though, and Shreyasi needed to get back home.
“Dad was on ventilator and life support system,” she recalls. “Everybody told me that I must go back and shoot and make it to the team. That’s what he would have wanted.”
She went back and kept her end of the bargain by making it to the team. Her father, who was in a London hospital, did not survive to see her shoot at her first major international.
“That’s when I decided that I had to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games,” she says. “Not just for me, but for my father.”
In 2007, she decided to take up sport shooting. “My dad and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore were quite close and used to meet often. One day they were talking about shooting and I was sitting with them. So I told them that I wanted to learn how to shoot,” she says. “They were both so happy, that in the next few days, ‘Chilli uncle’ (Rathore) became my first coach. He trained me for 10 days, taught me the basics and that’s how it started.”
After her father’s death, her mother took up the role her father occupied in politics. But she continued to support Shreyasi in her pursuit of a medal.
“They (Shreyasi’s family) are very involved in her progress,” says her coach Mansher Singh, a former Asian Games and CWG medallist.
Not many instructions were exchanged between athlete and coach in the break before the shoot-off. “I was a bit nervous, but I was ready to fight,” she says. “My mentality at that time was that this can go on forever or till tomorrow, but I’m going to get this gold. This was my chance and I wasn’t going to let it go.”
As it turned out, Shreyasi hit both her targets and Cox missed one. “At Glasgow, I won the silver and dedicated it to my father,” she says. “Now I have a better medal.”