To go, or not to go. That was the question. Heena Sidhu was at home, packing her suitcase when she got news that her upcoming event in Kuwait, the Asian Championships, was no longer offering the earlier promised Olympic berth.
Fatigue had started to get the better of her due to the constant travel around the world for tournaments, coupled with her own hectic practice schedule. The immediate thought was to skip the event. Yet, after a discussion with husband-coach Ronak Pandit, she figured the tournament would be a good pressure-free environment to test where she stands. The decision was made for her to go, however not before she laid down a strong condition. “We decided then and there that if we don’t end up winning this match then we really should stop talking about the Olympics,” says Pandit.
Subsequently, Sidhu won gold in her 10 metre air pistol event.
Despite the relaxed setting, the final result was tight. Sidhu shot 198.2, ahead of the 198.0 registered by second-placed Mongolian Otryadyn Gündegmaa, who was a silver medallist at the 2008 Olympics in the 25m air pistol event, and third-placed Kim Jang-mi from South Korea, the gold medal winner in the 25m pistol event at London 2012, who shot 176.2. “There was no pressure because there was no Olympic berth at stake. But that didn’t just apply to us. Everyone was shooting freely and that made things tougher,” Pandit explains.
For Sidhu though, there was still a degree of stress. The 26-year-old was looking to work hard to execute the game plan she’s drawn out for herself for some time. “I wanted to control my breathing and keep my nerves and aggressive mindset. At the same time I wanted to focus on my trigger action because that’s my strength. And I managed to work to my strength today,” asserts Sidhu.
The game plan came true on the occasion, making way for the next target which she hopes to achieve in time for the Olympic qualifier, which is yet to be scheduled.
The idea behind travelling to Kuwait and competing in a tournament that had lost its sheen was to use the event as a form of rehearsal. The playing field and level of competition was strong as most of the athletes had already reached the venue before they were told that the tournament had been derecognised as an Olympic qualifier. “With that setting it was a boost to win the match. I’m glad because it shows that I’m on the right track,” she mentions.