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Friday, September 24, 2021

Medal fighting back Covid to go with grandpa’s gallantry medal

On Monday, as Singhraj won the bronze medal in the men’s 10m air pistol event in the SH-1 category, the Haryana shooter recalled the tough times prior to the Paralympics.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 1, 2021 9:44:51 am
Singhraj AdhanaSinghraj Adhana claims bronze in men's air pistol (Source: PCI)

Earlier in the last week of May, 39-year-old Singhraj Adhana contracted Covid-19 virus and saw his oxygen dropping below 50. The para shooter, who suffers from diabetes, was left searching for a hospital bed in Faridabad and got admitted to an ICU of a private hospital only after a local MLA intervened. Singhraj spent more than a week in the Covid-19 ICU and would look at pictures of his grandfather late Subedar Major Sumera Ram Adhana, a World War 2 veteran of British Indian Army and winner of Indian Distinguished Service Medal and Military Cross, to motivate himself. On Monday, as Singhraj won the bronze medal in the men’s 10m air pistol event in the SH-1 category, the Haryana shooter recalled the tough times prior to the Paralympics.

“I have diabetes since eight years and to avoid contact with others during training, I also got the 50m range built at our school in my village. When I contracted the virus in May, it was the most difficult time of my life. My oxygen level dropped to 45 and after many desperate attempts to find an ICU bed, local MLA Rajesh Dagar helped. During the ordeal, I kept looking at the picture of my grandfather kept in my wallet to motivate me and a beginning. To win the medal is the biggest reward of my second life,” shared Singhraj while talking with The Indian Express from Tokyo.

Singhraj, who had contracted the polio virus at the age of one, would walk with the help of crutches till 15 years. While his grandfather, who was awarded more than 100 acres of land near their village Uchagaon near Ballabhgarh, was confined to bed his last years before his death in 1992, a young Singhraj would spend his time mostly sitting with his grandfather. With the family also owning two schools in the village, Singhraj would manage the running of one of the schools apart from fighting the local ward elections, which he eventually lost, in 2016 post demonetization. Accompanying his nephew Gaurav Adhana to the 40 km away Faridabad Shooting Range piqued his interest in shooting. “Initially I thought about swimming but I could not stand firmly even in two feet of water. The same evening, when I went with my nephew to the range, I hit four targets out of five in the inner circle with two perfect tens. Even though I was 35 at that time, I wanted it to give it a serious try,” shares Singhraj.

While he would initially start shooting on his own with a rented pistol and would compete in the Haryana Para Shooting Championships shooting scores around 530-535 in 10m air pistol, it was only after a meeting with 19-time international medalist and Asian Championship silver medallist Om Prakash Choudhary that his performance improved and within eight months he won the gold in National Para Shooting Championships in Kerala in 2018 followed by a bronze in 50m pistol event in Para Asian Games in Indonesia.

The same year, Singhraj would win the gold medal in Chateauroux World Cup in France where he sealed the Paralympic quota in 50m pistol event. Singh would win a silver medal in 50 m pistol in Al Ain World Cup in 2019 apart from winning a gold in 10m air pistol event in the Al Ain World Cup this year apart from a bronze in 50m pistol event. “Initially, I had to make adjustments in his sitting position as earlier he competed standing. We had to try the best side position as well as balance for him for trigger movement and stability in taking each shot. Since he suffered from diabetes too, we had to chalk out a proper plan of nutrition as well as training sessions each day. Once set, he would shoot 300-350 shots per day and his scores in 10m air pistol improved from 530-540 to 575-580,” remembers Choudhary.

Last year when the pandemic started, Chaudhary suggested Singhraj take a break from training in Delhi to avoid the chance of contracting the virus and it also meant that the shooter got a 50 m range built at the family owned school apart from making a 10m range in the basement of his house. With the lockdown meaning that the family expenses were spent on running of schools, Singhraj’s wife Kavita pawned her jewellery to a village banker for a loan. “The family as well coach Om Prakash decided that he should not travel to Delhi or Faridabad range to avoid contact. But the lockdown meant that most of the money was spent on the running of the school as we also waived some fees for the students. It cost us about 40 lakhs to get both the ranges built and his wife Kavita also had to lend her jewellery to a lender which we will get it now,” shares younger brother Udham Adhana.

Covid also meant that Singhraj’s blood sugar level would hover around 200 due to the Covid complications in the last two months and he made some adjustments in his food intake including some traditional laddos made of traditional flours. “Doctors told me that the blood sugar level will be higher for some time due to Covid-19. Apart from carrying some traditional flour ladoos, I have also to cut down my milk intake,” says Singhraj.

On Tuesday, Singhraj shot 569 in qualification to be placed sixth and advancing to the eight man final. In the final, Singhraj started in fine form and had climbed to third spot with a score of 178.1 followed by China’s Xiaolong Lou in fourth place and facing elimination. Singhraj shot a 9.1 on his 19th shot with the Chinese shooting a 10.4 and Singhraj trailing him by 0.7 point. But a 9.6 by the Indian and an 8.6 by the Chinese on the 20th shot ensured bronze for the Indian. “In the qualification, my body movement was bit more initially as my body moved to the left side and it showed in the first four five shots. I meditated between the break and coach Subash Rana told me to shoot without fear. In the final, when those shots for the third and fourth spot elimination came, I thought I cannot leave at this time after all these years of hard work and that’s what motivated me,” shares Singhraj.

As for the Adhana family, they know where to put Singhraj’s medal at their home and what will he do on his return from Tokyo. “On his return, we know he will place his medal along with his grandfather’s gallantry medals. That will be his tribute to his grandfather. I am sure he will now share his motivating stories too with the children at the school,” shares father Prem Singh Adhana.

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