He became the world champion in Zagreb in 2006, close on the heels of Abhinav Bindra. Yet, trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu’s quest for an Olympic medal continues, into his third straight Games.
Rated as one of the best three in the world at his prime by long-time coach Marcello Dradi, Sandhu had shot identical scores of 116 in Athens and Beijing. He had improved from 19th to 12th position. He has been inching closer to the Olympic finals, and was three points away the last time in 2008.
“You cannot get desperate,” warned Sandhu, about the danger of striving too hard for that elusive Olympic medal that the whole world yearns.
He was indeed in a desperate situation in the last Asian championship in Doha early this year, as it was the last chance to book an Olympic quota for London.
In difficult conditions when the wind played havoc with the flight of clay birds, Sandhu responded like a champion in shooting 122 out of 125, to stay five points ahead of the rest of the field, and eventually retained that margin for victory.
Coach Dradi rated the performance on par with the 25 that David Kostelecky of the Czech Republic shot in rain to clinch the gold in the Beijing Games. But he clarified, “it was one round,” as he expressed his admiration for the 36-year-old Indian for retaining his hold over a strong field in six rounds.
“I have become mentally a lot stable,” said Sandhu in an interview about his approach to the Games.
The preparation had to be professional, and the hunger exceptional, but he acknowledged the need to treat the Olympic Games as another world level competition so as to avoid the anxiety.
“Need to get into the final, with a good score, and take it from there,” he said, even as he emphasised that everyone would be ready and at their best.
“The sport has evolved in India. We have developed and in the process have also developed the sport,” said Sandhu.
Owing to the constant pressure to retain his Olympic berth following a stringent selection procedure, Sandhu was unable to stick to his high standard of performance this season. He shot 112 and 115 in the two World Cups, and had a taste of the tricky London weather in the process.
“I have started looking at the scores, after settling the equipment,” he said.
In the heat of the competition, in possibly cold conditions, Sandhu hoped that his intensity of focus would drive him to his best performance.