As 18-year-old Elavenil Valarivan won the women’s 10m air rifle gold medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney, with a junior world record score of 631.4 in qualification, her father was reminded of the days when she was taking her early strides in the sport.
The Ahmedabad-based Elavenil, the national champion in the event at last year’s Nationals, shot a 10.7 in her final shot to edge out Chinese Taipei’s Lin Ying-Shin in Thursday’s final.
“When she first took part in the district championships, she shot a score of 128/400. Seeing the card every day gave her extra motivation till she shot 400 in practice at one of the junior championships,” says 54-year-old scientist Valarivan Rudrapati.
Elavenil’s journey as a shooter began in 2013 when she accompanied her father to the Ahmedabad Military and Rifle Training Club to see one of his students shoot.
The youngster was soon hooked to the sport and borrowed the shooter’s rifle for the next three months to train.
While she initially trained at the club, her selection in the Sports Authority of Gujarat’s training programme meant she began thinking about pursuing the sport seriously. “Both my parents are into academics and I had no idea about shooting or rifles. In 2013, I met shooter Riya Shah, one of my father’s students, and she told me about rifle shooting. I borrowed her rifle for three months and trained at the club. I used to run 100m and 5 km earlier at the state level and training with a rifle for 2-3-hour sessions sometimes felt like running a marathon,” Elavenil told The Indian Express from Sydney.
She got her own rifle in 2016, and broke into the Indian junior team last year, finishing 28th at the Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany. Training in the junior camp also meant that Elavenil competed against the likes of Mehuli Ghosh, apart from participating in the selection trials in the senior category. Last year in November, she topped the selection trials with a world record-equalling score of 252.1 edging out Rio Olympian Ayonika Paul and Elizabeth Koshie. A month later, Elavenil emerged as the 10m air rifle champion at the senior Nationals in Kerala with a score of 250.6 in the final. She has made rapid strides in a short time.
“I did not know about the world record score in qualification today before the coaches told me. In the selection trials in November too, I got to know about the record from the coaches. When I won the gold at the Senior Nationals in Kerala, my elder brother Eraivan Valarivan, a captain in the Army, told me that it is a new national record. I have been training at the Gagan Narang Academy under coach Neha Chauvan and foreign coach Anton Belak,” said the shooter.
The last one year has seen Elavenil struggling with a knee injury. Prior to the Junior World Cup, the shooter had to wait for more than 16 hours at Kuala Lumpur airport due to a visa glitch.
“When she arrived in Sydney, her feet were swollen and she had to attend extra physiotherapy sessions. But her strength is maintaining consistency and that’s what she showed today. She has been troubled by the knee problem since last one year,” shared national junior rifle coach Deepali Deshpande. Now after the junior world title, Elavenil’s mother K. Saroja faces a difficult decision.
“She loves driving and currently has a two-wheeler. She promised us a gold medal before going and will now want a car. We need to decide about that,” she said.
Elavenil, who was competing in her second junior World Cup and first final, shot 249.8 in the women’s final to claim the top individual honours. Her 631.4 in the qualification round was a new world record.