Shooting Prakash Nanjappa talks about his career trajectory, post an attack of Bell’s palsy
The 6th Asian Air Gun Championship in Iran last week may not have been the most high-profile of competitions, but in Prakash Nanjappa’s career, it was a watershed. The Bangalore shooter won a silver medal in the men’s 50m free pistol event after a similar honour came his way in the team event.
But only three months ago, the possibility of such a future felt remote. Midway through the ISSF World Cup in Spain in July, Prakash unexpectedly suffered an attack of Bell’s Palsy, a neurological disorder of the facial nerves. It paralysed the right side of his face, leaving him incapable of shutting his right eye. Prakash, high on the success of the bronze medal he had won at a previous round of the World Cup in Korea in April, withdrew from the competition, staring at a potentially distressing future.
“If it was my left eye, there would have been no problem,” he laughs. “The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) took great care of me; they didn’t let me feel that something major had happened to me.” Prakash returned to Bangalore, where he held long talks with his father P.N. Papanna, a qualified coach and a former shooter. “My first thought was: why me? I sat with my dad and he told me to stay positive.”
Treatment and physiotherapy followed, with help from the Sports Authority of India’s sports medicine department at Bangalore. “I have so many people to thank. I’m grateful to Dr. S.S. Roy, the Regional Director, Dr. Rajkumar, and Dr. Sarala. Then there was Dr. Prashanth, who handled the physiotherapy; he changed his schedule just for my sake. All along, Rajesh Jagdale of the KSRA and my family, colleagues and friends stood by me. I spoke to my father, who trained me mentally, and I decided to come back to the sport.”
Although his right eye still bothered him, drying up with use, Prakash recovered sufficiently to return to training after a gap of two months. He planned a new approach, built around investing fewer hours but making highly efficient use of them. He entered Gun for Glory, a competition organized by Gagan Narang, to test how his facial muscles would respond. Although he didn’t win, Prakash shot well.
In Tehran, Prakash’s eye acted up at times, but he pulled through, shooting 190.5 and missing the gold only by 0.3 points. “My eye was still drying up at times and I couldn’t close it, but I tried not to focus on it. I was not exactly happy with my performance, but I came out okay in the end.”
Prakash’s attention now shifts to the ISSF World Cup finals in Munich, scheduled to begin from November 6. He flew to Delhi from Iran on Saturday, where he will train with the national team before directly leaving for Germany. “I’m ready for it,” he says. “It is all because of the support I had. It is the only reason I manage to ignore the past.”
My first thought was: why me? my dad told me to stay positive