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Learning to heal, going for the kill

"I started shooting with the sole aim of getting admission but I am very happy I decided not to quit the sport. Today, shooting is my priority," said Heena, who epitomizes the concept of a student athlete and the amateur ideal of Olympic sports. Saurabh Duggal reports.

delhi Updated: Oct 13, 2010 00:28 IST
Saurabh Duggal

She picked up a pistol with a very simple target in her mind.

Participation in the nationals would get her a certificate that would go a long way towards securing admission in the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme under sports quota.

However, Heena Sidhu did well enough to get admission at Gyan Sagar Dental College in Patiala in the general category. She decided to stick with the sport. 'For the sake of participation' are words that are no longer part of Heena's dictionary. Every event she enters, she wants to win, irrespective of how big the stage.

On Tuesday, would be dentist teamed up with Anuraj and gave India its 31st gold medal of the Games in the 10m air pistol team event, surpassing the country's all time best gold medal haul.

"I started shooting with the sole aim of getting admission but I am very happy I decided not to quit the sport. Today, shooting is my priority," said Heena, who epitomizes the concept of a student athlete and the amateur ideal of Olympic sports. Sometimes, she has to skip exams because of her shooting commitments, but she always makes up the loss.

Heena started shooting five years ago and apart from today's Commonwealth Games triumph she also has a world cup silver medal to boast of, and about a dozen other international medals.

She made her international debut in 2007 at the 11th Asian Shooting Championships in Kuwait, and won bronze with a score of 379. Later in the same year she went on to add double gold with vastly improved scores of 384 and 388 in Germany.

"Heena came to me to learn the sport because she wanted to get into college, but the way she started hitting targets with confidence, I was pretty sure that she would make it big one day. When she got admission I asked if she would stop shooting, but she said she would continue. The rest is the history," said Swarnjeet Kaur, under whom Heena learnt the basics of shooting.

Before coming to Delhi for the Games, Heena made a request to her parents that she doesn't want them to be in the venue at the time of her event, as it would put her under too much pressure. So, they decided go back to Patiala after wishing her luck for the event.

"This morning, I gave her a call and asked her to shoot without any pressure and concentrate on just doing what she generally does in practice. That's exactly what she did, and it was good enough," said proud father Rajbir Singh Sidhu.