He may have become the new hero of Indian sports, but Vijay Kumar was as normal as ever.
The 26-year-old from Himachal Pradesh was so modest that he first thought it fit to explain the format that five shots had to be fired within four seconds, to impress upon the media the gravity of the achievement.
He has joined Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as the second shooter from the army to win an Olympic medal and silver at that. Vijay is the fourth shooter to win an Olympic medal, the others being Rathore, Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang.
On how he kept so cool during the nerve-wracking competition, and didn’t show any emotion even after the medal ceremony, Vijay said the army training over the years had helped him control the nerves.
“The sport is such, that we are trained to control the nervous system. It is very tough. Being stable is important,” said Vijay, quite pleased that years of toil had at last shot him to the pinnacle of sporting achievement.
“I had no pressure. We were mentally prepared well. We keep competing internationally and only the name changes. It is the Olympics, and comes once in four years.
“I was a little nervous but was able to handle it well,” said Vijay, as he heartily thanked the ‘great training’ under coach Pavel Smirnov, hired by the army, for lifting his performance gradually over the last four years.
Vijay said that he fired normally despite knowing that the gold had been clinched by the Cuban Leuris Pupo. The coaches were happy with his execution, and there was nothing more to it.
“I have not gone home for two years. The first thing I want to do is go home,” said Vijay about his future plans. It had been tough training for the last four months in Germany, and he thanked the army for grooming him into a world class shooter as he had taken up the sport only after joining the military.
Talking about the new format, Vijay said it was the same for everyone, perhaps more difficult because, “now we have 40 shots in the final unlike 20 earlier. It is tougher, as you have to continuously shoot good over eight series of five shots.”
The international federation, ISSF, had tried the new format in rapid fire pistol for the first time in the Olympics to make the sport more interesting to the spectators, removing the decimal scores.
Vijay said he had had a good sleep, as he trailed the overnight leader by one point, and was quite pleased with the way he handled the qualification. “My mental set-up was fine. We had planned things well, and I was happy with the execution,” said the soft-spoken Vijay.
He was particularly happy for Joydeep Karmakar who set the tempo for the day with a fourth place in the rifle prone event.