In a span of two days, teenager Divyansh Singh Panwar has crossed the tricky bridge between talented rookie to a double World Cup medal winner.
A day after winning the mixed team gold with Anjum Moudgil, the 16-year-old won his first individual medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup on Friday and secured an Olympic quota spot in 10m air rifle, a discipline that has a storied history in India.
“This was a very good experience for me as I was participating in my first final and it’s great that I was competing against some Olympians. I wasn’t thinking of any quota or medal so it was easier for me to concentrate and shoot. Technique was all I was focused on,” Panwar told Scroll.in after winning the medal in Beijing.
To those who have seen the rapid strides of the Jaipur-based through the last year, it seemed like only a matter of time before he would make his mark on the senior level. Given India’s prolific track record in international shooting, a teen winning a World Cup medal is not unusual.
He won gold in both junior and youth at the nationals in 2017 and followed it by winning all the 10m air rifle events including the senior men’s, youth men’s and junior men’s events national selection trials 1 and 2. He even bettered the current world record in an unofficial tournament in Mumbai at the end of last year.
But is Panwar’s case, this transition to senior was not smooth. In fact, his emphasis on technique and focus after the podium finish tells a story, one of how the youngster has learned and grown in a short span of time.
He had made his senior debut at the season’s first ISSF World Cup in Delhi in February. In front of a raucous home crowd, Panwar finished 12th in qualification with a score of 627.2 and was the best Indian ahead of the seasoned Ravi Kumar and Deepak Kumar.
This would have been a solid debut for most youngsters, but both Panwar and the watchers knew that it was not.
He was in eighth position till the final two series of qualification but fell behind in the penultimate series. And he very candidly admitted that it was because he got distracted and forgot his basics. He said his biggest learning from his senior debut was to work harder on the mental aspect and work with a trainer perhaps, something he hadn’t done so far in relatively young career.
“Mentally strong ban na hain [I have to become mentally strong]” he told the reports gathered after his match in Delhi. “I need to concentrate on technique, the moment I forget my technique I stop hitting the inner 10s. Will have to improve a lot mentally [because] basics I already know, but I need to work on my mental game, I haven’t worked on that aspect so far.”
Walking the talk
From Delhi to Beijing, in less than two months, he seemed to have crossed that obstacle with aplomb. From admitting that he needed to work harder on his focus to missing the gold medal by a mere 0.4 points showed that he has been walking the talk.
In his two finals in China, faced with a loud crowd cheering for his opponents in the first one, he kept his cool. “The experience of having played the mixed final a day before helped. Because I had shot at the mixed final so I knew the range. We had practiced here for long. I adjusted well to the height here.”
This consistency is another important step for the teen who had admitted that he tends to forget his routine under pressure. “Thodi dair yaad rakhta. [I remember for some time] Then once I see the inner 10s, my brain goes straight to the score I need to have... I have to stop looking at the scoreboard so much, it will be good for me,” he had said.
This observation in Delhi was instantly corroborated by his father, Ashok who was noticeably disappointed.
“Works hard but not enough. Needs to focus, work hard. He is very good at what he does but if he worked a little harder, he can do great things. He should do more yoga and sleep early.
And then like the majority of parents in India, he added: “He is distracted by his mobile and PubG”
But the youngster, who is studying Biology at the Maheshwari Public School in Jaipur, doesn’t just use the gun in virtual games. He started shooting at the age of 12 taking after his older sister Anjali, whose weapons he used to shoot with originally at the shooting range in Jangpura, Jaipur. He then began training with Deepak Dubey and made his way up the ranks with consistent scores at the junior level, making it to the senior level earlier this year.
Now, the challenge for the 16-year-old will be to ensure he can continue shooting at this level and be able to utilise the Tokyo 2020 quota place he has won for India.
“Now I just want to keep shooting above 630 because that is the only way to keep my place in the team till Tokyo. Everyone is a competition in India. I have to focus on my work,” he said from Beijing.
If he can continue to self-assess and work on the flaws with the same conscientiousness, there is no reason why he can’t maintain his place in the Indian team even as he plays mobile games as a typical teen.