Indian 10m air pistol world record holder Heena Sidhu’s appearance on the cover of International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) December 2013 issue may have slipped under the radar in India due to event-based coverage for the sport which gave the nation its first individual Olympic gold medalist (Abhinav Bindra at Beijing 2008).
The Mumbai-based, Ludhiana-born, markswoman is savouring the attention from fellow competitors who keep track of shooting happenings through the magazine brought out by the ISSF, the body governing world shooting sport. Olena Kostevich from Ukraine and her father were the first off the blocks.
“We may live far apart, but the shooting community is connected via ISSF magazine. It felt nice to get congratulatory messages from Olena and her father,” said the 22-year-old about her Ukraine rival, a double Olympics medalist with Athens 2004 gold and London 2012 bronze.
The ISSF NEWS edition’s description: “Young and upcoming athletes like her are the future of SHOOTING, and their motivation is the power that will move our sport towards Rio 2016.” Four images appear in the magazine, three showing her clad in purple and one from the medals ceremony.
Heena made the shooting fraternity take notice in Munich at ISSF World Cup final last November, scoring 203.8 for world record and gold in 10m air pistol final. She becomes arguably the first Indian shooter, female or male, to be put on cover by shooting sport’s world body.
She is ranked second on ISSF world rankings in women’s 10m air pistol (1263 rating), behind Serbia’s Zorana Arunovic (1598 as per Jan 2014 list). “My selection for the cover by ISSF is okay. I am told it is a first time for an Indian international. I am more happy with the world record in Munich under the 20-shot final round format.”
Ronak Pandit, personal coach and husband, relates an incident to show how a world record competing against the elite made her a known face. “Viktoria Chaika from Belarus used to make her feel intimidated. We worked on that in mind conditioning and after the world record, Viktoria nods on spotting Heena when the two cross paths.”
He adds: “At one time, Heena used to get intimidated by the mere sight of Viktoria (world number three behind Zorana and Heena). Now recognition, even a nodding head, shows we have arrived at the world level,” said Ronak, traveling to major tournaments with his ward. Anatolly Piddubnyii, one-time Russian national shooting coach, trains her on a long-term basis at Balewadi, Pune.
Anatolly takes care of Heena’s detailed technical training in the off-season and in run-up towards competitions, informs Ronak. “Ten days before a major event, I take over and focus on giving her competition training.”
Heena’s Olympic debut happened at London 2012, she missed qualification for the 10m air pistol final round. The road leading to Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016 promises to be different. “I want to win many more competitions. I want to make up for all the years without a medal. Recognition is motivating, performance that day matters.”