Anjali Bhagwat believes that shooting sport standards have risen so high in India following back-to-back medals by seniors Rajyavardhan Rathore (2004 Athens Olympics), Abhinav Bindra (2008 Beijing) that juniors aim for nothing less than an Olympic medal.

“I can see it in the mindset of juniors chosen to represent India. They want to qualify for the Olympics and win a medal like Bindra did. Positive air is flowing around shooting, standards are so high,” noted the rifle shooter and a triple Olympian during a recent chat.

She was in Beijing as a competitor in women’s 10m air rifle and watched the action unfold in men’s 10m air rifle final. “Bindra’s gold at Beijing was the catalyst. The celebrations following the title boosted public participation in shooting sport.”

Confidence and body language is the common link between Olympic medallists Bindra and Athens silver medallist Rathore, she feels. “Bindra arrived in Beijing backed by meticulous preparation,” notes Anjali.

“Rathore really worked hard and body language was so confident that he was at the Olympics to aim for a medal, nothing less would do for him.”

Great feeling

Far away from the shooting range in Athens, her recollection is of the mood in the Games Village waiting for Rathore to return with the silver medal. “We grabbed whatever Olympic posters we could find and made a greeting card on behalf of Indian shooters and stuck it on his door.”

On the flight back from Beijing and Athens, Anjali remembers the passengers enquiring about the victory ceremony and asking the athletes to describe the scenes. “We realised the value of Bindra and Rathore’s achievements that day and felt almost as if the Olympic medals were won by us,” she said.

Anjali who made her Olympic debut in 2000, shared a room with weightlifter Karnam Malleswari in Sydney. Malleswari won India’s first Olympic medal in the women’s section, a bronze.

Twelve years after her Olympic debut, Anjali could not clinch a quota place for the London Games in 10m air rifle event but the former world No. 1 is happy for those who made the grade.

Keywords: Anjali Bhagwat

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