Earlier this week, Prakash Nanjappa from Bangalore won the silver in the men’s 50-metre free pistol in the sixth Asian air gun championship in Tehran, finishing behind Mai Jiajie of China.
No stranger to success, this victory was “special” for the 37-year-old shooter: it is his first international medal since he was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis.
He recalls how a month after he brought home the bronze at the ISSF World Cup in South Korea, when he went to play at a championship in Spain, he was diagnosed with the condition that paralysed the right side of his face. “I was initially worried as the eye is the most crucial organ for a shooter. But then, I read up about it and realised that it was a condition that would last a maximum of six months,” he said. Mr. Nanjappa recovered in a month-and-a-half, and to get back to the sport, he practised extra so that he could get over the weakness and regain form.
Currently, though the partial paralysis doesn’t bother him, he still suffers from dry eye syndrome, requiring him to use eye drops frequently. “The recovery is still not 100 per cent. I am glad I could pull this off and I look forward to the upcoming world cup championship in Munich,” he said.
Mr. Nanjappa’s father P.N. Papanna was himself a national-level shooter. In many ways, he credits his father for his skills. Ask him how he got into shooting, and pat comes the reply: “It was a challenge with my dad!” Back in his college days, when he was “more into adventure sports like motorbike rallies”, a conversation with his father got him to try his hand at shooting. “I was making fun of him when he was practising for a State-level championship, and he told me that if I thought it was so easy, I should prove myself.” One thing led to another, and before he knew it, he was into shooting.
He moved to Canada in 2003, working as a software engineer for six years. “I didn’t have time for shooting then. Again, it was correspondence from my father that inspired me to get back to the sport. I returned, quit [my] software job and started practising again,” he says.
Soon, he won his first state event, and he discovered that this is what got him most excited. “And since then, there’s just been no looking back.”