“I’m retiring as the world champion and world No 1,” remarks Ankur Mittal when you ask him about his thoughts on giving up the discipline that gave him his biggest triumphs.
Why is the shooter retiring at 26? Because double trap, the sport he gave eight years to, is no longer an Olympic sport.
Mittal is torn between the high of winning his biggest career title – the coveted World Championship – and the fact that all of it won’t count for much as he virtually starts from scratch, switching to trap to stay in Olympic contention.
But before he begins his quest for a Tokyo 2020 spot in earnest, he will have the chance to revel in his achievements in double trap one last time as he receives the prestigious Arjuna Award on September 25.
“I was expecting it last year, but then I got to know that they don’t award you for the year you win but for performance in the last four years. In 2017 I won two World Cup medals, World Shotgun Championship, and Asian Championship. This year also, I have won a medal at Commonwealth and now the World Championship,” he told Scroll.in.
The year 2017 saw him make his breakthrough at the international level. He won a silver in the first World Cup he played, in Delhi, and then went on to do one better winning the gold at the ISSF World Cup in Acapulco in Mexico. After the back-to-back World Cup medals, he bagged gold medals at the Asian Championships and Commonwealth Championships. He then topped it with a silver at the ISSF World Shotgun Championship and became the world No 1 in double trap.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he narrowly missed the gold medal after leading the pack throughout the final, faltering on three shots during the elimination round to finish with bronze. At the Asian Games, he finished ninth, not making the cut in the six-man final. But the highest point came when he was crowned world champion in Changwon earlier this month.
However, the biggest victory is also the last for the double trap world No 1. Mittal himself says that it is no point dwelling on the past and ruing the fact that his pet event is not in the Olympics. He is determined to make the good ending to the double trap chapter, a new beginning for the trap one.
“Shifting from double trap to trap is not that difficult because I have shot trap in many junior competitions and won many medals,” the former junior national champion said.
“I have started shooting trap, I had started it last year only but I had to give up because I could not cope up with both events together. It was not so bad, I shot trap at the nationals and won a silver medal in the team event. I am going to shoot in national again, let’s see and hope for the best,” he added.
The 26-year-old is confident that he can make the switch to trap successfully, something that several other double trap shooters have done world over.
“A lot of double trap shooters have already shifted and doing well. At the World Championship also, there were two double trap shooters in the trap final and one of them got the quota place as well. Seeing this I feel it won’t be that difficult also to make the switch,” he added.
For Mittal, trap shooting is a family legacy in a way. He picked up trap following in the footsteps of his father, Ashok, and elder brother Ajay, who are both shotgun shooters. While Ajay has won two junior Asian golds, his father still participates in the nationals.
The 26-year-old is more than capable of carrying on the legacy in trap, even if he does immediately enjoy the same success as double trap in 2017.
“The main goal is still winning the Olympic quota place, starting with the World Cup in 2019,” he said. Mittal will start with the nationals later this year and hope to build on, with a several Tokyo quota places on offer through next year.