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Asian Games: Another Day, Another Teenage Champion — Shardul Vihan Bags Double Trap Silver

As the days have advanced in these ongoing Asian Games, India’s medal winning shooters have got younger. Lakshya Sheoran (Trap, Silver) is 19, Saurabh Chaudhary (Pistol, Gold) is 16, Shardul Vihan (Double Trap, Silver) is 15!

Suprita Das | News18 Sports

Updated:August 23, 2018, 10:22 PM IST

As the days have advanced in these ongoing Asian Games, India’s medal winning shooters have gotten younger. Lakshya Sheoran (Trap, Silver) is 19, Saurabh Chaudhary (Pistol, Gold) is 16, Shardul Vihan (Double Trap, Silver) is 15!

Vihan, the current national champion in Double Trap won silver, finishing with a final score of 73, behind Korea’s Hyunwoo Shin. Coached by Olympian and two-time Asian Championship gold medallist Anwer Sultan, Vihan shot to limelight at last year’s Shotgun National Championships in New Delhi where he won four gold medals in all – the individual and team events in junior and senior categories. In the senior final, in fact, he beat the reigning champion and World No. 1 Ankur Mittal. Vihan also finished a creditable sixth at last year’s Junior World Championships in Moscow.

Hailing from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, shooting was never Vihan’s first choice of sport. He wanted to be a cricketer, but inevitably got a chance to bat after everyone else as a 6-year-old. After a brief stint with badminton, his father, Deepak Vihan, took Shardul to the local shooting association where he impressed the coach. In his first competition in 2012, a zonal one, Shardul shot silver, and started preparing for the national championships. With no decent shooting ranges in Meerut, the next few years were spent travelling to Delhi as frequently as possible to train under Sultan, which meant a 4 am start to the day for the boy who was yet to get into his teens at that time. Education had to take a backseat, and Shardul went to school only as often as was possible, and was fully backed by his school.

The success of India’s teenage shooters at these Games, didn’t happen overnight. The current lot is being honed by some of the best names from Indian shooting who have achieved considerable success at the international level – like Jaspal Rana, Joydeep Karmakar, Anwer Sultan, Mansher Singh. World over, shooting scores have got higher, across events, and the shooters younger.

India don’t want to be left behind. London Olympics finalist Joydeep Karmakar, who trains 17-year-old rifle shooter Mehuli Ghosh says the difference is in the attitude too. “Today, we are training these kids not just to shoot, but to win. The result of that training is these wins. There will be losses too, it’s a part of sport. But they will learn from their mistakes quicker” Karmakar says.

What has helped these shooters-turned-coaches immensely is the National Rifle Association of India’s constant stress on its junior development programme that has produced some stunning results just in the last year. At the ISSF World Cup in Mexico this year, India topped the charts with nine medals in all. Two of those came from the pistol of 16-year-old Manu Bhaker. NRAI’s policy to organize separate funds for its junior shooters is clearly bearing fruit.

“Transition from junior to senior is a key thing in any sport,” says former shooter Morad Ali Khan, who is now on the national selection committee too. “We found a lot of juniors were uncomfortable in transitioning into seniors, and hence decided that for two years there should be special attention given to them.”

‘Catch Them Young’ is clearly the mantra and its’ working. With two years to go for the Tokyo Olympics, this is indeed a healthy sign for Indian shooting.

| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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