On Tuesday, as 19-year-old Gurnihal Singh Garcha was competing in the junior men’s skeet final at the ISSF World Championship in Changwon, his father Gurinder Singh Garcha had just returned from his training round at the skeet shooting range in village Talwara near Ludhiana.
The farmer had started skeet shooting in 2010 and young Gurnihal would soon follow in his footsteps. Four years after his initiation in the sport, he became the first Indian shooter to win a skeet medal in the junior event at the World Championships when he finished behind two-time World Cup medallist and last year’s silver medallist at the world championships Elia Sdruccioli of Italy and Nic Moschetti of the United States.
Garcha was in the lead after the second round in the six-shooter final before a missed target on the fifth station meant he had to be content with the bronze medal with 46 hits out of 50 targets in the final.
“I was shooting under some pressure in the first 30 targets as I knew the competition was strong. Once I found my rhythm, I relaxed a little. The conditions were fluctuating as it got windy after the midway stage in the final. In the last one year, I have struggled a little in the penultimate rounds but the perfect second round in the final made me think I could win the gold medal. It was a bit unfortunate to miss one target at that juncture when I could have been in the lead. But the biggest reward for me was when Rio Olympics champion Gabriello Rossetti shook hands with all the medallists after the final. As a skeet shooter, we always want to shoot like the Italians or Americans and to win a medal in a field which included two Italian shooters is a new start for me,” Gurnihal told The Indian Express from Korea.
Hailing from Ludhiana, where his father owns a 25-acre farm, Gurnihal started shooting in 2013 at the village range. While Garcha Senior would also manage the manual targets at the range, Gurnihal would start with shooting 10 targets per day. His first medal was a silver in the junior skeet event at the 2017 Nationals at Delhi. He made it to the Indian junior squad last year and Tuesday was his fifth international appearance.
“My father started competitive shooting at the age of 40, which inspired me. We would talk about guns all the time when I was growing up but seeing him compete at the national level helped me make up my mind to take up skeet shooting in 2013. When I started, I would sometimes fall with the gun or feel tired after shooting 10 shots. My father would then increase the number of shots per month and as I grew comfortable, I would shoot 100-120 every day at the range. And nowadays, I usually shoot close to 300 targets in a day. Unlike trap or double trap shooting, skeet requires shooting from different stations but that’s the challenge which I enjoy. I see it like studying different judgments in law and putting across different arguments in court, which I am currently studying,” shared Gurnihal, a second-year student of Law at Panjab University Regional Centre in Ludhiana.
While Gurnihal’s qualification scores were around 112-115 last year, the last year has seen him shoot scores in the range of 118-120 and the youngster shot 119 in qualification on Tuesday before edging out team-mate Ayush Rudraraj and Jaroslav Lang of Czech Republic to make it to the six-shooter final.
“When Gurnihal joined the national camp, his scores were a bit low in the qualifying rounds. He would shot close to 115 in qualification and we had to work on some of the aspects of his game. He would rush into his shots and we had to slow it down. In the final, he shot without fear and we were expecting the gold medal till his turn came at station number 5. But this medal will do his confidence a lot of good and we expect bigger things from him in the future,” shared national junior skeet coach Jitender Beniwal.