Though on a winning spree, ace shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu can’t afford to celebrate just yet as many more gruelling challenges are coming his way

It is the right time of the year, to be away from the heat and dust of Delhi. Yet, living in the pleasant environs of Italy, almost on a regular basis, is not a pleasure pursuit for former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu.

It is a ‘tapasya’. It is such a hermit life that the 37-year-old Manavjit does not have the luxury of celebrating some of his biggest achievements.

He recently won the gold medal, beating two-time Olympic champion and multiple World Champion, Michael Diamond of Australia, in a competitive field in the shotgun World Cup in Tucson, US.

As a sportsman you go through so much in life that you learn to put things in perspective. It was not like winning a lottery for me

It was one of the significant achievements of his career, even though he had won his first World Cup gold in 2010 in Mexico, and had won the most prestigious World Championship gold in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2006. He deserved a hero’s welcome home, but Manavjit Sandhu opted to stick to his plans and went straight back to the training base in Italy. “I was very happy to win the gold. I have been shooting well for quite some time, and it all fell in place. As a sportsman you go through so much in life that you learn to put things in perspective. It was not like winning a lottery for me,” expresses a composed Manavjit.

He reasoned that it made sense to stick to the plan of more training in Italy, along with double trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi, and coach Marcello Dradi, as there are three more World Cups in Kazakhstan, Germany and China. In a way, the World Cups, though featuring the very best from around the world, are treated as practice matches by the Indian shooters, for the Commonwealth Games, World Championship and the Asian Games that are scheduled for the second part of the season.

“The Commonwealth Games is very important for us, as a lot is expected from shooting. We don’t have the ‘pairs’ team events this time in Glasgow and that will see a fall in the number of medals we win. So, we have the responsibility of winning as many medals as possible. The World Championship is very important because it offers the first quota places for the Rio Olympics. Of course, for us, the romance of competition is in the Asian Games”, says the shooter , quite confident that he would preserve his best and peak at the right time for the big events.

With the government extending solid support, training in Italy may be a routine, but it is a sacrifice to be away from family, especially his three-year-old son Ameir.

His wife Kangan takes care of everything, keeping him free to pursue the Olympic dream. The Deputy Superintendent of Police in Punjab Police, Manavjit said that it was important to stay focused on shooting, if the bigger goals were to be achieved. “In Delhi, shooting is only one part of life, but in Italy, it is everything,” he says. Watching movies on the computer and reading books keep Manavjit suitably entertained.

Though he shoots the big scores regularly, Manavjit has not been able to do that in the three Olympics in Athens, Bejing and London. Easily one of the best trap shooters in the world, he is determined to ride on his expertise in the sport to reach an Olympic medal.

He may not be as popular as Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, or Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who put the shooters in the limelight with the Olympic silver in Athens. Or for that matter, as well-known as Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang who captured the silver and bronze medals in the London Olympics in 2012, but there is no doubt that Manavjit Sandhu is one of the best shooters the country has ever seen.

Despite a rich collection of medals at all levels, he believes that “the best is yet to come”.