Prince Prithviraj Tondaiman of Pudukkottai shares his ascent as a shooting champ
The stone structure that is around 150 years old, the welcoming hall that could easily be converted into a taxidermy museum, and the durbar hall filled with game hunted by erstwhile kings at the Pudukkottai house in Tiruchi all explain why Prithviraj Tondaiman, of what was once Pudukkottai state, describes himself as an instinctive shooter.
A member of the Indian shooting team, Prithviraj took to shooting at the age of 15, inspired by his father, Rajagopal Tondaiman, who was also once part of the team. Since then, Prithviraj has represented Tamil Nadu as well as India at various shooting championships.
“Though hunting for pleasure is a banned activity now, it was once inextricably associated with royalty,” says Prithviraj, who thinks the skill required to shoot a moving target may have been passed on genetically.
While Prithviraj specialises in the Olympic Trap Shooting event, he is also the reigning state champion in Double Trap and Skeet. The event in its original format, he explains, used pigeons housed within traps as targets. “While the pigeons were replaced by platter-shaped clay targets, the word ‘trap’ stuck to the game and it now refers to the enclosure from where the clay pigeons are hurled into the air by a machine.”
In 2003, Prithviraj participated in his first nationals at the junior level and held the Junior Champion title for four consecutive years. In 2007, as part of the Junior Indian Shooting Team, he won the silver at the Asian Shooting Championship held at Kuwait. Taking a break the next year, he moved to France to study at the Lille Catholic University.
“Returning in 2009, I participated in the National Shooting Championship held at Patiala, Punjab,” he says, “and having ranked within the top five performers at that event, I was roped into the Indian Shooting Team’s squad.” Prithiviraj says he has strived since then to maintain his rank and position within the team.
He attended two international championships in 2011, namely the Asian Shotgun Championship (Malaysia) and the Asian Shooting Championship (Qatar), and his first senior-level World Cup hosted by the International Sport Shooting Federation at Tucson, Arizona (USA).
“Competitive shooting has four world cups every year and a world championship every four years,” explains Prithviraj, who secured the ninth position at Tucson. The team for the upcoming World Cup, he says, is selected on the basis of performance at the previous event (if the individual participated) or through a trial run held in India. “I did get selected for the next World Cup held at Lonato, Italy, but I couldn’t go because there were delays in the processing of my visa,” he says. However, he is looking forward to qualifying for the Asian Shotgun Championship slated to be held this November at Patiala, Punjab.
While at the moment he is ranked number four among Indian trap shooters, Prithviraj points out that the difference between him and the third ranker was just 0.25 points. “A recent change in the game’s rules has made it possible for the top five rankers to participate under the individual category, which means that I already have a spot on the Indian squad that will go to Patiala,” he says. He will still have to beat the third ranker at the October trials to gain a spot on the team, which consists of the top three rankers only.
India has scope
Prithviraj believes the Indians are a team to look out for in competitive shooting. “We’ve had some winning performances at the previous Olympics, at all levels of the Commonwealth Games and at the Asian level, we are at par with Kuwait, which is a very good team,” he says. Within the country, he thinks the states of Punjab and Delhi usher in the largest number of competitive shooters every year and that he has been the sole representative of Tamil Nadu till date.
“There is no one else, even in other shooting events like rifle and pistol, and today there is no shooting range to train at in Tamil Nadu.” Prithviraj uses ranges in Bangalore instead and travels once a year to train in Italy. Having set his sights on the 2016 Olympics, Prithviraj says he is not going to wait until the last moment to secure a place within the team that would represent India there. “While aiming for the 2012 Olympics might have been a little too ambitious, I am confident about making it the next time well ahead of schedule.”
Meanwhile, he hopes Tamil Nadu will revive its only shooting range at Red Hills near Chennai, so that it can be better represented at the national level. For his part, he plans to set up a professional training range and club that can be rented by aspiring as well as competitive shooters for training.
Keywords: Prince Prithviraj Tondaiman