“The tension must have been huge with a medal to be decided on the last shot. That Gagan (Narang) fired a 10.7, says it all,” Anjali Bhagwat told The Hindu on India’s first medallist in the London Olympics.
Anjali, the only Indian, male or female, to be adjudged Champion of Champions at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup final at Munich in 2002, said, “I experienced it while watching yesterday’s final. I noticed he didn’t start till he felt comfortable and took his time to settle down.”
“Gagan’s no doubt a fast shooter but my heart beat faster as I was worried for him. But towards the end, he covered lost ground quickly. He’s a great finalist, building up from the sixth position he reached with 598, to third among the elite eight in what was an extraordinary final,” the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee said.
“Gagan’s medal will not only help shooting, but Indian sport as well. It will change the nation’s attitude towards sports culture,” she felt.
Delving into an association dating back to the turn of the millennium, she drew vignettes of the man so fond of food, that he had no control over the quantity of intake. “But amazing attitude saw him shed the pounds days before the Olympics,” Anjali recalled.
“Gagan trains for nine to 10 hours at a stretch and then not turn up at the range for four to five days. If he’s bored he won’t practise but he believes in his style as much as his confidence level is high,” she said.
“Till 2008, our group of shooters would train together since for some time there was no coach and we were like family. We’d call him baby as he was easily excitable. He has an inborn talent for the sport but is a lazy guy,” Anjali added with a laugh.
Avneet Sidhu Hundal, another markswoman proficient in the 10m air rifle had an interesting tale to narrate. “We were in pre-Beijing Olympics training in France. On the eve of a tournament, Gagan declared he would score 599 the following day. That he did so, showed how determined he could be, although it was often difficult to guess whether he was serious or joking,” the Arjuna awardee added.