Sunidhi Chauhan says she always dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot, sports wasn’t something that interested her. While studying at the Barkatullah University in Bhopal, Chauhan enrolled in the Air Wings course with the National Cadet Corps in 2015. Being a ‘C’ certificate student, Chauhan was assured of a direct interview with Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Services Selection Board (SSB). Instead, during her NCC training, her coaches spotted her shooting skills, and her plans changed.
“I started shooting in NCC, hoping it would help me during my SSB. But from there, my path took a turn, and now I am focusing only on shooting. Because of my shooting career, I do not get time to prepare for the SSB interview. So my studies and everything else has been left behind for now,” Chauhan told reporters ahead of the ISSF World Cup 2019 in New Delhi.
Despite a change in plans, Chauhan says she received a lot of support from her parents. However, she still hopes to pursue her dream of flying an aircraft one day.
“Both things (shooting and flying) cannot happen at the same time. They are both different fields,” Chauhan said.
The rifle shooter started her career in Prone event and in 2016, she competed at the Nationals in the same category. She got a lucky break at the Madhya Pradesh Shooting Academy in Bhopal, where she learned to shoot in Standing and Kneeling positions, and later switched to the 3 Positions category. In 2018, she earned a bronze medal at the Nationals in the same category. A year later, she will be entering her first ever Senior World Cup which is set to begin from Friday.
“I am currently keeping an average score of around 70 in the preparations, but I am still trying to give my best. I am just starting so I am not keeping my expectations too high. But I hope to maintain the average scores I am getting. The coaches are also helping me out a lot,” she said.
Despite her inexperience, Chauhan is eager to experience the pressure that comes with the tournament. “My focus is just to play more. It is my first time I will participate in such a big tournament and I will realise what pressure actually means,” she said.
With 14 Olympic quotas (two quotas scrapped by IOC in Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event) still up for grabs at the Delhi World Cup, much of the discussion about the event is centered around it. But Chauhan said she is not worried about it since it’s just the beginning of her sporting career.
“There are too many experienced players around me. They advise me that I should keep the focus on myself for now. They tell me I should only worry about my individual performance and not worry about quota, scores or such things since I am just starting,” she said.
“The scores will improve gradually. So if someone is regularly scoring 1160 (during training), he or she won’t suddenly score 1180 out of the blue. It takes some time,” she said.