Vijay Kumar should thank his Russian coach Pavel Smirnov for his Olympic silver medal.

The Russian’s appointment was a part of the Army’s Olympic Mission Programme that was launched in 2004 to turn potential talent into medal winners.

“I always believed that army shooters have the ability to strike it rich. Vijay has proved it. They all have the potential to win medals at major international competitions and they are proving it,” Smirnov has said at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

The soft-spoken Moscow man has been with the Army Marksman Unit in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, since 2007. He has been working with Vijay for the last five years to turn him into a champion shooter.

Smirnov remained like a shadow with the Indian Army subedar during the Games here and now can finally heave a sigh of relief after his ward became the first Indian pistol shooter to win an Olympic medal.

Vijay is also the second Indian shooter to win a silver medal, after double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in 2004 Athens.

Vijay credits his success to Smirnov.

Smirnov, however, remains modest and said: “In the last three years, Indian Army shooters have done extremely well at international competition. We are in the eighth year of the programme and still have a long way to go. We need more coaches to take the programme forward,” he said.

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