India's Rio 2016 Dreams: Shooter Jitu Rai Can Do an Abhinav Bindra on Debut

Jitu Rai.  (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Jitu Rai. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

A world No. 2 in 50m air pistol and No. 3 in 10m, Rai, who was once a farmer in Nepal, has a knack of pulling out all stops and produce his best on big occasions.

When Abhinav Bindra created history in 2008, Jitu Rai had only got off the mark. When Bindra was preparing for his third Olympics, Rai was a farmer in Nepal. But ten years since Rai last ploughed his land in Sankhuwasabha, Nepal, the Naib Subedar of the Gorkha Rifles in the Indian Army is a world No. 2 shooter in 50m air pistol and No. 3 in 10m air pistol. But the most important fact two days away from the 2016 Rio Olympics is that on this 29-year-old rest India's hopes of an Olympic gold.

In the year 2006, more than his crops, Rai cultivated dreams of joining the army. A year later, he was part of it, not in his country but across the border in India. However, shooting was not his first love. To put it better, shooting was never a source of joy for Rai until he realised that he was actually pretty good at it.

Being in the army, access to guns, bullets and a shooting range was never a problem. All it needed was Rai's presence, focus and belief - which he developed in time, though the armyman must be disappointed for not having made his Olympic debut an edition earlier in 2012.

But the watershed moment for Rai arrived two years after the London Olympics, when he won seven medals in 2014 - four in the 50m event and three in 10m - across the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, ISSF World Cups and the World Championships.

That included a silver medal in the 50m event at the World Championships in Spain, which ensured a Rio Olympics quota for Rai - the first Indian shooter to do so. The monkey was off his back.

But like Bindra, Rai too is pretty nonchalant about his achievements. He is a man of few words and quick to move onto the next task at hand, which is what helps him remain focused and get the best out of him, especially when things are not going in his favour.

2015 was one such year when he could shoot only a 50m silver at the Asian shooting championship and a 10m bronze at the ISSF World Cup 2015. Those 12 months were kind of anti-climatic after a successful year but, in his impregnable shell, Rai knew what to do.

An Arjuna Award spurred him on to win 50m air pistol gold medal at the 2016 ISSF World Cup, and the Naib Subedar was back on track in the Olympic year.

It highlights the fact that Rai has a knack of pulling out all stops and produce his best on big occasions. Setbacks don't upset him or push him to lose focus, rather they only make him stronger, which is what he has shown in his steep rise to become one of world's best pistol shooters.

The 50m event is Rai's favourite when it comes to picking one, but he surely won't mind winning a medal in any of the two events he will be part of. But what India will expect is a 'Double Dhamaka' off Rai's pistol in Rio. And it's not beyond him.