Esha Singh often finds herself being “dragged” to a shopping mall by her father, Sachin Singh. It is how he helps her unwind when the grind of professional sport shooting starts to weigh heavy on her mind.

Sachin Singh is a former rally driver of some renown, and so, knows that a sportsperson requires a release – a break from the daily routine that revolves around perfecting the art. Esha Singh’s release is shopping.

“If he finds me overthinking, he’ll take me to the mall,” said Esha Singh to Scroll. “I’d get annoyed because he’s forcing me to go, but eventually I realise I’m actually feeling better.”

Lightly, she added that she may next ask her father for a bigger trophy cabinet. It was a comment made in jest, but it did betray a sign of where the 19-year-old shooter’s next target is: the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Indeed, on Tuesday, the National Rifle Association of India announced the squad for the rifle and pistol shooting contingent that will be competing at the Paris Games in July. Esha Singh had been selected for the women’s 25m pistol event.

She did give herself every opportunity of getting selected, finishing second overall, behind Manu Bhaker, in the event at the national shooting trials which ended in May.

Four sets of trials were conducted, two each in New Delhi and Bhopal, to test the shooters’ form and consistency. What it also did was provide a tense atmosphere.

“The trials were tougher than the Olympic Games itself,” said Esha Singh’s coach Ronak Pandit, who is also the chief national coach for pistol, to this publication.

“[At the Olympics] you know you are there, but in the trials, there is a chance that the effort of the last four years, of making the cut, could go down the drain. The tension was palpable, you could feel it.”

Esha Singh, though, remained focused. Pandit explained that she altered her routine, choosing to give more time for rest and recovery rather than practicing her technique.

It was a tough process, but Esha Singh asserted she is happy to have gone through it.

“In a way, it was good because you got to see what kind of pressure your mind goes through in these matches, and what is your performance during that,” she said. “This was good prep before the Olympics.”

Making the cut for the Olympics is simply another step she has taken in what has been a steep rise.

Esha Singh first burst onto the international circuit at the Cairo World Cup in 2022. She was a 17-year-old shooter competing in her first senior-level international competition, and ended up as the most decorated Indian at the event with two golds and a silver medal.

But then again, she has had a habit of creating a stir.

Pandit recalled that the first time he met Esha Singh was at the 2018 senior nationals, when she was only 13.

“There was this short, thin little girl who had reached the air pistol final,” Pandit said, who has been working with Esha Singh since March 2023.

“At that time, Manu [Bhaker] and Heena [Sidhu, a former Olympic shooter and Pandit’s wife] were having a fierce battle in the final, and then Esha came from nowhere and won the title. That was the first time anyone had really heard of her. We all shrugged it off as a one-off, but she’s proven herself.”

At that event, Esha Singh became the youngest-ever senior national champion in the country.

The flair for the sport was always present. But with time, she has only become more mature in her approach to her craft.

Also read – Asian Games, Shooting: How Esha Singh regrouped in time to win the women’s 25m pistol silver medal

The first year-student at the Malla Reddy College in Hyderabad has recently even altered her training program.

“I used to shoot a lot and train much harder, but I’ve toned it down because I’ve understood that it’s not the quantity but the quality of training you do,” Esha Singh explained.

“You have to understand what you want to execute, and once you’re happy with it, you switch off and you’re done with training. But this is something that works at a personal level for me.

“In my personal training sessions [outside of the national camp], earlier I would take 100-120 shots in 10m then the same in 25m. Now, if I’m feeling good after 50 shots, that’s good enough for me.”

The teenager from Hyderabad is currently at a national camp in Luxembourg, as the preparation has already begun for the Paris Olympics.

Before she does take the trip to the French capital though, she is scheduled to make another visit home, where once again, she expects to make another shopping trip with her father. She talked about how she and Sachin Singh had a father-daughter rivalry to see who had more medals.

“I crossed his tally a long time ago, maybe I have double of what he has,” she said, laughing.

A bigger trophy cabinet may be in order, but Esha Singh is hoping that a spot on the Parisian podium will come first.