Updated: January 29, 2016 9:42:41 am
You’d think there was nothing more macho than slinging a shotgun on the shoulder and sauntering onto an outdoor range, coolly demolishing some clay birds. But a few years ago, Hyderabad lad Kynan Chenai had found himself another mad zeal — buffing up his torso to look like Indian Arnie was crossed with Hercules. A gym fiend while spluttering out of his teens, Kynan was addicted to the cross-fit regime and unwilling to stop beefing up, until the long stock of the gun drilled sense into the youngster.
Those ripping shoulders have made way for a lighter lither frame that makes shooting a gun far easier — and the trap shooter, more agile in his bearing and far more flexible in his thinking, rose to the challenge of winning India its 10th quota position during the Asian Olympic qualifiers on Thursday. “He was totally mad about training in the gym,” says long-time mentor Mansher Singh, who recalls how ultimately the realisation came from the youngster himself that his bulky shoulders were coming in the way of quick reflexes and spinning of the upper torso to trap down targets. Kynan shot 120 (a series of 22, 25, 23, 25, 25 / each out of 25) in qualification to make the six-man final, and then tied with three others on a score of 12 after the first 15 shots to pick one of the four quotas available.
The 25-year-old would miss the bronze against Kuwaiti Tala Al-Rashidi, but prop up spirits on a day when Olympians Vijay Kumar and Manavjit Sandhu (23, 22, 25, 25, 23 for 118 / 125) just couldn’t leap high enough to steal the quota on a luckless day.
Kynan’s father Darius is secretary general at National Rifle Association of India, and even won the recent Nationals at Jaipur. “I’d have had to live with that for a while had I not won the quota here,” Kynan joked, as he recalled a typically waggish baap-beta headline in a Hindi daily, chuckling about how the son couldn’t achieve what the father did. “But he actually helped me win that Nationals with his advice,” father Darius, a happy man on the day, says.
It helped that the father had stood rock steady behind his son’s dreams. Packed off to London for higher studies on the insistence of the family’s elders in Hyderabad, Kynan had been miserable staying away from the gun entirely. “I finally decided to get him back home, because he wasn’t happy,” Darius says.
Kynan’s contemporary Asher Noria — a junior world mark holder — had similarly quit shooting and found his calling in engineering studies abroad. But the University remained a cold, dull place for Kynan who was itching to get back to shooting.
“The way I see it, I didn’t give up on anything, I just started a new life,” Kynan says. Scores would waver up and down as he worked on first getting lean and then fixing his technique and temperament. “I used to call him the biggest sulker on the range. He took defeats quite bad, and his whole body language would drop — slumped shoulders, not talking to anyone,” Mansher recalls. Holes in his techniques needed to be plugged, and the boy needed to get himself a thick skin.
“After his first round of 22, I took him aside. He needs a lot of positive reinforcement, to be cajoled,” the coach says.
“I’d bet my life today that you’d shoot 25”: Mansher told him. “Because they’re so easy to shoot.”
The ward would respond with three 25/25s and march into the finals.
When he tied on 12 targets with three other shooters after 15 shots after having missed three of his first seven clay pigeons, a quota was both dangling and deserving for the young man. He hadn’t made the team for the first two World Cups this season, kicked himself for missing two birds at the Lonato World Championships when he was poised to enter the finals till Round 4 and lost to his old man at the Nationals.
Mansher would work on his shooting rhythm. “He’ll shoot well now that his confidence is up,” the coach says.
The quota doesn’t ensure him a Rio berth as he has to go atop NRAI’s selection policy numbers — Manavjit led before this event, but Kynan will collect points for quota and shooting 120.
India could blood a youngster in trap this time looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, though it’ll be tricky given Manavjit’s stature, consistent form, and near-miss here. “The next two selection trials will decide,” Kynan says. It’s time to beef up his mental resolve and gun for the Olympic ticket to Rio for himself, after he reserved a place for India.
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