Special Correspondent

COLOMBO: For Navanath Faratade, the world around him has changed dramatically.

The village boy, who never thought much about taking to shooting, is the World champion in the10m air rifle event. And the recent success in Zagreb (Croatia) is still to sink in.

"I can't tell you how much I was happy on my 596/600 score, my best ever, that brought me the World championship success," said the unassuming collegian from Kolhapur as he familiarised himself with conditions at the Sri Lanka Naval base range, the shooting venue of the South Asian Games.

Destiny plays its part

Left to himself, he would have happily continued to spend time in kabaddi and be done with it. But destiny had something different for him. The opening of a sports academy (one of the 11 that the Maharashtra government had launched in the State) in Kolhapur gave him the benefit of systematic sports training.

"First it was improving fitness level and then I was tried in shooting. I somehow impressed," said Navanath on the beginning of a journey that has been a fairy tale.

The benefit of getting trained under top Maharashtra shooter J. Kosale honed his skill. When the veteran coach passed away two years ago, his relative Ajit Patil took over to ensure Navanath retained the continuity. Hungarian coach Lazlo takes care of him at the National camp.

"My first gold medal in shooting came in the Chennai Nationals in 2000. I have now a good collection of over 35 medals. My first international exposure was in Germany and since then I have visited Czech Republic, Thailand and now Croatia."

Ready for more

For one who has all the support from Maharashtra government, which helped him with his rifles and also, after his Zagreb success, presented him with Rs. 5 lakhs, Navanath is ready for more promises. The story of a lad from a farmer's family could have an illustrious streak.

As he gets ready for his session, came his parting shot when asked if he knew what the SAF record was, " I don't know but maybe when I strike a record I will".

No arrogance that but an innocent statement of an innocent young man, who is coming to terms with greatness.

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