Among the most thrilling moments for an Indian fan at this year’s Asian Games was Rahi Sarnobat’s historic gold medal in the 25m air pistol event.
After she was tied at 34 points following 10 series of five shots each with Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon, a shoot-off was needed to decide the winner. Both found the target four times in the shoot-off, leading to another shoot-off where Rahi shot three and the Thai two, ensuring a historic gold for the 27-year-old shooter — the first Indian woman to win a shooting gold at the Asian Games.
Rahi’s is among the several stories of redemption at the Asian Games. The pistol shooter was almost down and out following the death of her first personal coach, Anatolli Piddubnyi, in 2015. She was close to the Ukranian; according to her, he was like a grandfather. And, his passing away shook the shooter.
As she was coping with the grief, an injury to her elbow added more pain and robbed her of the chance of participating in the Rio Olympics. To recover from that injury took another year.
After the recovery, Rahi had to rebuild herself and her game to shoot at the top level. The struggle – physical and mental – would have made the triumph at the Asian Games and the history she scripted there, momentous.
She told Scroll during a live Twitter chat that it was “very depressing” for her to watch fellow athletes compete and win medals, while she was unable to compete.
“You feel like the world’s just running away from you and improving and you are just sitting there unable to compete. But then [on those occasions], I went back to the question of why I started shooting, why I like shooting... If I cannot compete or perform, that cannot change the love for my game. So, then I kept going because of that. So, I told myself that ‘Just keep shooting because you like it. Whether you can perform or not, will be a different thing. Just keep working hard and the results will follow.’”
When her struggles reaped her rewards and abundant appreciation – people flocked her home to congratulate on her Asian Games gold medal – she didn’t complain.
“After I came back to Kolhapur, everyday I had like 125 people coming to my home. I couldn’t say no to anyone, they came with so much love and as a result, I never got out of the jetlag,” she said.
Despite the Asian Games gold medal, Rahi feels she can improve a great deal as a shooter. “For an athlete, it’s not about scores, it’s not about medals,” she said, “it’s about technically being perfect or move towards excellence. Of course, I want medals. But the core of an athlete is to move towards excellence everyday. So, I am working towards excellence everyday.”
Watch Rahi’s interaction with The Field at Twitter India’s Blue Room:-
You can also stream the full video here.