Adarsh Singh had never thought he would be a shooter. He was a wicketkeeper with the school team and played badminton at the state level, and always thought of taking up a career in one of the two sports. That was not to be.

But, at just 17 years of age, Adarsh is country’s top shooter in the 25m rapid fire event after he won the gold medal at the national championships in December. The Haryana shooter clinched gold, getting the better of state-mate Anish Bhanwala 30-29 in the final, at the 62nd National Shooting Championship Competitions in Trivandrum, Kerala.

Next week, he will have another first to his name as he represents India at the senior level in the ISSF Shooting World Cup which begins in New Delhi from February 23.

Indian shooting has seen a host of teenagers rise in ranks in the last two years and Adarsh is the latest in that list. While Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala and Saurabh Chaudhary display natural shooting talent, Adarsh took a different path to get where he is.

“I did not know shooting like five years ago. I played cricket and badminton but I had severe pain near the spine which would not allow me to keep wickets or play badminton. So my father said give shooting a try. He is really interested in the sport,” Adarsh says.

Adarsh was diagnosed with a medical condition when he was born. The pain was because of a lump close close to his spine and it was removed after a surgery, six days after his birth.

“It doesn’t pain now or is severe in any manner but when I played cricket and badminton, it used to crop up. Shooting is standing game so it doesn’t affect much,” he says.

But there was another problem. Being a southpaw in an event dominated by right-handers, Adarsh did not find the right equipment to train so he borrowed the pistol from his sister Riya Singh who is also a shooter.

“I used my sister’s pistol without thinking much about the grip. Once I began achieving some results, I changed my grip but I continued to shoot with her pistol,” he says.

Adarsh took off in the sport. He won the national championship gold by defeating junior world champ Bhanwala and had earlier won the gold in the team event at the junior world championships.

He now wants to continue his domestic form and win a Tokyo Olympic quota from this event. But with some of the big names arriving in New Delhi, it will be no cakewalk.

Adarsh will have to overcome another hurdle just after the world cup. A student of commerce, he will be appearing for the board exams from March 2.

“I study 2-3 hours a day and practice in the morning. The teachers at my schools took private classes with me so the syllabus is compete,” Adarsh says with a smile on face revealing that he only attended school four days in the last year.

Though he may not be a born-shooter, Adarsh could well begin the journey of a illustrious shooting career next week.