Asian Games: How a World Champion Helped Rahi Sarnobat Return To Winning Ways
Rahi Sarnobat desperately needed to try something new. Because she wanted to be back among the medals. The Kolhapur girl had to take considerable time off from the shooting range and also missed the Olympics in 2016 due to a serious elbow injury. Her solution was getting on board a world champion – Mongolia’s Munkhbayar Dorjsuren who represented Germany and won two world championship titles and two Olympic bronze medals
New Delhi: Rahi Sarnobat desperately needed to try something new. Because she wanted to be back among the medals. The Kolhapur girl had to take considerable time off from the shooting range and also missed the Olympics in 2016 due to a serious elbow injury. Her solution was getting on board a world champion – Mongolia’s Munkhbayar Dorjsuren who represented Germany and won two world championship titles and two Olympic bronze medals.
The 27-year-old felt her game needed an X-factor. “We all train very hard at the range, but at the highest level you need attitude too. World champions and Olympic champions do things differently, their processes are different,” she said before the Asian Games.
Add to that, the mental strain that the entire process of rehab and recovery comes with, Sarnobat definitely felt the need for some sort of transformation. Her personal coach would never be able to accompany her to national camps as that would be a conflict of interest. But Sarnobat’s gamble paid off.
What Sarnobat learnt from her coach was the mindset of a champion, she says. That truly came in handy in Wednesday’s 25m Pistol final. In the qualification, Sarnobat finished seventh. Her compatriot, the 16-year-old Manu Bhaker had shot a record qualification score, going into the final as a definite gold medal favourite.
But Sarnobat’s strength is rapid, not precision. And finals are all about rapid. Her first ten shots were all on target, and even in the sixth series, she got in five out of five. So consistent was Sarnobat in the final that she didn’t fall out of the top three even once. A counter-narrative was unfurling and how. As Sarnobat maintained her stronghold at the top, the teenage prodigy Bhaker missed her aim nonstop, cracking under pressure. She got eliminated soon after and sank into her chair looking devastated.
With the scores levelled at the very final shot, Rahi Sarnobat wore a slight smile on her face. A silver was assured, but she wasn’t going to settle for it. Tie breakers, penalty shoot outs, shoot-offs – these can be terrible things. Because at that nail-biting, nerve-wracking and heart-stopping moment, a lot depends on luck. Very little depends on how good the athlete is at his/her sport. But it also depends on how well the athlete holds his/her nerves. And in that department, Rahi Sarnobat passed with flying colours, becoming the first Indian woman shooter to win an Asian Games gold medal.
Dorjsuren says she had to work on Sarnobat’s mental aspect of the game, because her shooting was top class already. Sarnobat is a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and had won a bronze from the team event at the previous Asian Games. Intrestingly, Dorjsuren is known to be close to Gaby Buhlmann, who happens have coached Abhinav Bindra to India’s only individual OIympic gold medal till date. It would be safe then to say that when Rahi Sarnobat was picking a coach for herself, she was well and truly on target.