With the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in his bag, Gagan Narang now takes aim at the 2012 London Olympics.
Flat feet grounded Gagan Narang's dream of a career in commercial flying. After all, he'd grown up within shouting distance of Hyderabad's Begumpet airport, where his father was a Chief Engineer with Indian Airlines.
A stroll down Chennai's Marina Beach as a child saw Gagan burst quite a few balloons with an air rifle. That grew into a hobby and he began taking part in competitions at the NCC range in Secunderabad.
His father, B.S. Narang, sold a plot of land, shortly before the real estate boom swept the country, so as to buy his son a second hand rifle. That investment should make Narang Senior proud today, for his son never looked back since then.
Starting with the Junior World Championship crown at Suhl, Germany in the 10 metre air rifle, the Hyderabad lad struck gold in his hometown during the Afro Asian Games. In 2006, he landed four gold medals in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and shortly after, his first World Cup gold at Guangzhou, China.
His forebears hail from Panipat, Haryana, scene of three battles pivotal to India's history, but his tastes are distinctly shaped by the Twin Cities. His weakness for Hyderabadi biriyani finds him often in the battle of the bulge but over the years, greater discipline sees him slip into his new shooting jacket comfortably.
Persistence and ambition also saw him become world no.1 in the rankings and break the world record in his pet 10 metre air rifle. He branched out into the 50 metre rifle three position event with a fair degree of success.
For a while, he explored long-range shooting too, trying his hand in 300 metre competitions too.
A food-lover who enjoys exploring cuisines across the world, he also has a fetish for gadgets and gizmos, stemming perhaps from the Bachelor of Computer Applications (BA) degree he holds. Not done with academics yet, Gagan's also pursuing studies in business from a Delhi college.
Not one to miss out on the sights and sounds of exotic places he's visited on the shooting circuit, Gagan has captured many of these for posterity in a large collection of photographs, which touched the 10,000 mark more than five years ago. Many of these were used in a book titled, ‘The Commonwealth Journey' that details almost the entire Indian contingent's achievements in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
The quantity apart, the quality won the approval of professionals, who now and then borrow a frame or two, when they miss out important happenings that he'd have recorded. The positioning and sharpness of his subjects in his work are at times breathtaking in their beauty, clearly defined in images that will stand the test of time.
On his own
Employed with an air carrier, he signed up with a professional career management firm floated by two sporting greats. Over time, he opened an academy of his own in Pune, to which he seems more rooted currently than his native Hyderabad.
To enhance his shooting skills, especially in noisy settings, Gagan competed for a club in the German league with a fair measure of success. This association and his achievements brought him closer to a rifle manufacturer there, who featured the Indian shooter on its calendar too.
Since he had much equipment to haul around, he was often seen criss-crossing the country in an SUV, which after it had traversed terrains as diverse as the regions it visited, he gave up for a smaller vehicle. His eyes dart to and fro from rear to side-view mirrors making his driving in Hyderabad's terribly chaotic traffic quite error and accident-free.
Feted early with the Arjuna award, Gagan made his displeasure known when he was left out for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna citation; he will now receive the award this year.
Nonetheless he looks forward to the 2012 London Olympics — he is the first shooter to qualify for the quadrennial event — as the biggest summit to be scaled.
Found interest shooting balloons on Marina Beach, Chennai as a child
Pursued sport at NCC range in Secunderabad
Won world junior championship at Suhl, Germany
Hit limelight with gold at 2003 Afro Asian Games in his hometown, Hyderabad
Won four gold medals at 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Shortly after, struck gold at World Cup, Guangzhou
Became No. 1 in ISSF world rankings in 10 metre air rifle, broke world record a little later
Keywords: air rifle shooting