Ace Indian shooter Apurvi Chandela believes maturity and experience will hold her in good stead at next year’s Olympics as she focusses on her technique and mental strength to return with a medal from Tokyo.
Chandela, currently ranked world No 1 in the 10m air rifle category, had emerged as one of the medal contenders at the Rio Games after a slew of record-breaking performances but went blank during the competition, eventually ending 34th in the qualification round.
“I was younger then, but now I have matured, have more experience and a better sense of how to handle any kind of situation. These have been learning experiences,” Chandela, who secured an Olympic quota with a bronze at the 2018 World Cup in Changwon, told PTI. “Overall this year has been good for me. Going into the Olympics, I have to focus on my technique, physical condition and mental shape and get better in them.”
The Indian rifle and pistol shooters have been in phenomenal form this year, topping the medals tally at all four World Cup stages, picking up a total of 22 medals, including 16 gold.
India have nine quota places so far for the Olympics and Chandela believes with a bunch of young stars in their ranks, the country will be able to put up a good show at next year’s Games.
“The Indian team has grown so well, we have a big chance of winning medals at the Olympics,” said Chandela, who achieved the world No 1 position in the women’s 10m air rifle event in May this year.
“We have a good lot of shooters, you are focused on the task and are young and go-getters. The kind of spirit that they have got into the team is amazing and so I think we would be able to do better this time.”
India’s young shooting brigade comprising the likes of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Yashaswini Deswal and Elavenil Valarivan are giving stiff competition to their senior counterparts.
Chandela, who won two individual gold medals in the World Cups in Delhi and Munich besides the mixed gold in Rio, attributed her success this year to the intense competition that she faces from the younger lot.
“The competition is helping me excel right now, I just can’t be satisfied with anything. So many youngsters are doing well and it is kind of pushing me more,” said Chandela, who won gold in the 10m air rifle mixed event with Deepak Kumar at Rio World Cup recently.
“The kind of scores that I am shooting now is something I couldn’t have imagined to shoot three years back. I mean, I couldn’t have thought of shooting a 633 in a World Cup.
“So the margins are higher and the things that I am extracting from myself, which at some point, I thought I am not capable of, so boundaries are being broken.”
The 26-year-old from Rajasthan said she is happy with her overall performance this season and focusing on the upcoming tournaments in November.
“The preparation that I have been doing till now is working out well for me and things are looking up. I have been trying to be consistent in my shooting.
“We have two more important tournaments in November this year, the Asian Championship and the World Cup Finals, so I am looking to doing well there,” said Chandela.
While the Asian Championship (November 3 to 13) is an Olympic qualifier, a record 14 Indian shooters will compete in the year-end World Cup Finals, scheduled to be held in Putian, China between November 17 and 23.
Ahead of the Rio Olympics, Chandela had suffered a foot injury and she says it was a big setback for her at that time.
“I had a foot injury in March, 2016. It has taken me about one and a half year to get over that and try to increase my training hours or stand that long,” she said.
“That was a setback because till then I was doing well, but then I had to take a break, I couldn’t stand for more than 20 minutes in training as my feet would burn but it is better now. My mentor and personal coach Rakesh (Manpat) helped me during that phase,” she said.