Just 10 days before the Beijing World Cup, Apurvi Chandela received a new kit. With her old jacket and trousers no longer offering her the stability she needed, she could no longer delay the switch. Chandela, along with compatriot Anjum Moudgil, had already secured the Olympic quota but needed a good performance to retain an edge in the competitive Indian women’s 10m air rifle field that included highly-rated youngsters Mehuli Ghosh and Elavenil Valarivan.
Despite not being accustomed to her brand new gear, the 26-year-old Chandela topped the qualification round with a resounding 630.9 – which tied the highest score she’s shot in a preliminary round – before eventually finishing fourth in the finals, losing a medal by a mere 0.1 point.
Later on, her mentor and coach Rakesh Manpat would recall her calling the event “the toughest match she’s ever played in, all because of the new kit.”
“Considering the world-class field and the new kit she had to shoot in, those are exceptional scores she’s got,” Manpat says. “She’s been working a lot on the mental aspect, and that’s really been helping her out.”
One of the drills she repeated during her training to get used to the pressures of international shooting competition involved a popular voice-assisted device Alexa. Manpat says that he tried to simulate the distractions shooters face in the final rounds.
He explains: “During finals, there’s a lot of noise and there are constant announcements regarding scores which adds to the pressure. So now we’re blaring those announcements when she is training, this is done so that she gets used to shooting in a noisy environment.”
The loudspeaker therapy and the previous simulation drills have paid rich dividends for the Jaipur native. In February, at the New Delhi World Cup, Chandela won her first ever World Cup gold, that too by setting a new world record in the finals.
In Beijing, she eventually finished fourth, two places ahead of Moudgil. Valarivan, meanwhile, ended the qualifiers in 17th place, while Ghosh, who was shooting in the MQS category, scored 632.2 in the qualifiers (better than Chandela’s 630.9).
The competition between the four is steadily intensifying as each tournament goes by. Chandela, though, has been keeping up her high scores of late.
“She was telling me the other day that she’s made it to the Indian team for the last 24 consecutive World Cups, spanning around eight years,” says Manpat. “She’s aware that she’s been consistent enough to make it to the Indian team in all that time. Now she’s started to push herself to make sure the participation means something.”
3-position trio in action
The trio of Sanjeev Rajput, Chain Singh and Parul Kumar made it past the elimination stage of the men’s 50m 3 position rifle event. Rajput shot a score of 1171 in the round, Chain 1169 and Kumar 1168.
From the 90 competitors in the elimination round, 60 move forward to the qualification stage on Wednesday, which will include the three Indians. Thereon, only eight will make it to the final later in the day.
Along with the men’s event, the women’s 10m air pistol qualification and final will take place on Wednesday. The Indian contingent will field Manu Bhaker, Heena Sidhu and Yashaswini Singh Deswal for the event.