Nineteen-year-old Manish Narwal overcame the disappointment of a seventh-place finish in the men’s 10m air pistol earlier this week to win gold in the 50 metre event at the Asaka Shooting Range. Narwal, making his Paralympics debut, broke the world record to clinch India’s third gold in the ongoing Games, while Singhraj Adhana bagged the silver to make it a one-two finish. Narwal shot a total of 218.2 in the 50m Pistol (SH1) event.
This was 39-year-old Adhana’s second medal following the bronze in the men’s 10m Air Pistol (SH1) event on Tuesday.
For the younger of the two shooters, a pep talk with his coach helped him bounce back after finishing outside the medal positions earlier. Narwal spoke to his coach Rakesh Singh from Tokyo. Singh gave him valuable advice, which was to focus less on the sights (devices used to align eyes with the target) and to get back to basics or shooting with the natural feel.
“When Manish did not win a medal in the 10m Air Pistol after topping the qualification, he was a little disappointed. When we discussed, he told me that he had been concentrating more on his sights. I told him not to over-think. His biggest strength has been his self confidence and that’s what he displayed today,” coach Singh said.
A native of Ballabgarh near Faridabad in Haryana, Narwal suffered impairment in his right arm since birth because of nerve damage. His father Dilbaug Narwal blames the medical staff. However, despite many visits to doctors there was hardly any improvement in the mobility of his right arm, which Manish cannot lift.
“It was a mistake of the medical staff which resulted in the nerve damage of Manish’s shoulder. It resulted in no movement in his arm,” Dilbaugh, who runs a machine fabrication unit, says.
The family backed Narwal’s choice of sport and he joined the 10X Shooting Academy at Ballabgarh, which is run by coach Singh. The early challenge for the coach was to find a pistol with a grip suited for a left-handed shooter. Manish would win a silver competing with the right-handed grip pistol in his first Para Nationals in 2015.
Three years later, Manish would become the 10m Air Pistol champion apart from winning a silver medal in 50m Pistol event in Para Asian Games in Indonesia.
He went on to become the 10m Air Pistol world champion. “Since he can only shoot with his left hand, we struggled initially to get a left-handed grip pistol for him. But he adjusted well to the right-handed grip. When he won a silver medal in Para Nationals, I knew this boy is a special talent,” the coach recalls.
In a smart move, the coach also made him compete against able-bodied shooters in the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) tournaments to get exposure. That way Manish could compete in at least 10 tournaments a year.
“He also made it to the Indian squad in 2018 and participated with some of the best shooters in the country. With more accuracy, he would shoot in the range of 580 in the 10m Air Pistol and it also helped him gain confidence in 50m Pistol events,” says Singh.
On Saturday, Narwal shot a qualification score of 533 to qualify in the seventh spot with compatriot Adhana shooting a score of 536 to be placed fourth in 50m pistol qualification.
In the final, Narwal made a shaky start with a score of 87.2 in the first competition stage, with Singh shooting 92.1. In the elimination stage, Narwal kept his cool and shot a Paralympic record score of 218.2 points in the final to edge Adhana for the silver medal.
Adhana’s final score of 216.7 meant that the 39-year-old Haryana shooter became only the third Indian after athlete Joginder Singh Sodhi and shooter Avani Lekhara to have won at least two medals at the same Paralympics.
Adhana’s coach Om Prakash spoke about how the 10 metre event and the 50 metre one have different challenges.
“50m pistol is almost completely different from a 10m air pistol with regard to the bullet and the jerk of the pistol. Apart from that, one has to adjust to wind, sunlight, rain or other outdoor conditions. Along with 10m practice, we would make Singhraj shoot with a 50m pistol at different times of the day and even in the rain to practice. The extra hours of practice did have an effect on his body but he was able to cope,” Om Prakash says.