“If I message him with queries sharp at midnight and if he happens to be awake, I would surely get my answers by 12.05 am,” shooter Ravi Kumar said Wednesday about Abhinav Bindra, his constant pillar of strength since 2014. With an expression full of gratitude and a tone that was reverential, Ravi spoke about Bindra, who played a major role in his turnaround in a matter of three years.
One of India’s most consistent rifle shooters in recent times, Ravi was down after failing to win an Olympic quota despite displaying good form in the last World Championship. While he could not secure a quota for the country, Ravi did the next best thing: speak to Bindra. And the 29-year-old shooter, spoken of highly by Bindra himself, was up and running, leaving behind the disappointment of that September evening in the South Korean city of Changwon.
“In the World Championships, I was in good form but still I could not get a quota there. Then next day, I spoke to him and soon I was training hard and looking forward to the future assignments,” Ravi told PTI during an interaction. The reigning national champion in 10m air rifle, Ravi has impressed with his consistency since winning his first individual international medal, a bronze at the Asian Airgun Championships in 2017.
“He (Bindra) speaks with me every night, over phone when he is not available in Delhi, for last three years, since the Rio Olympics. I share my sorrows and happiness with him. If I message him at 12, if he is awake, then by 12.05 he replies. “It feels good that they have so much belief in me, it motivates me to work harder so as to not disappoint them.”
Not known to be strong in the finals in his initial years in international shooting, Ravi had, in the past, credited India’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist for turning things around in his career. “I played all top eight except the World Championships. I was fourth in the last World Cup. It all depends on how it goes that particular day.”
In 2018, he won his first International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup medal in Mexico, following it with a Commonwealth bronze and a mixed team bronze at the Asian Games. In the season-opening World Cup starting in the national capital from Saturday, Ravi is optimistic of doing well, and maybe, secure a quota.
“Last season was very good for our shooters for quotas as they had worked hard for it. Hopefully, we will get here too. Our coach (Oleg Mikhailov ) has worked on my combination with Deepak Kumar. We have been shooting together for two years. Our personal coach is Manoj Kumar.”
Mikhailov was appointed foreign rifle coach in 2017 after the departure of Stanislav Lapidus. Asked about the difficulty in maintaining good scores even after securing quota to ensure selection in the squad for Olympics, Ravi said he looks at the country’s interest first.
“Suppose I have won a quota and my performance dips near the Olympics, then I will myself volunteer (to pull out), you have to understand the country wants medals after investing so much on that. Maybe a junior or my senior, who is in form at that time, is picked and I am okay with that.”