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Avneet Kaur, a coming of age?

india Updated: Jul 26, 2006 03:03 IST
S Kannan
S Kannan
None
Highlight Story

When the National Rifle Association of India selected Avneet Kaur Sidhu ahead of Anjali Bhagwat for the Melbourne Commonmwealth Games earlier this year, eyebrows were raised.

Plumping for "inexperience" was a gamble, but the NRAI apparently, had always believed that scores at trials are a just reflection of talent and the ability to withstand match pressure.

On Monday night, when the unassuming 24-year-old girl from Bhatinda shot 397 plus a 101.2 in the final, she may not have realised that her score in the air rifle event at the World Shooting Championship in Zagreb, Croatia, would suffice for an Olympic quota place.

After all, that score enabled only a eighth place finish.

For all those who have followed rifle shooting at home over the years, Avneet is an unknown commodity. She took to shooting just five years ago and in a short span has served  notice of her potential.

And the best was that she actually shot 400 out of 400 in the trials earlier this year and thus pushed Anjali out of the squad for the Melbourne Games.

It was a decision which could well have backfired, but Avneet grabbed the chance with both hands, won the air rifle pairs event in Melbourne and then clinched silver in the individual category.

Had it been another day - Abhinav Bindra not winning an incredible gold - Avneet's performance would have been raved about. But then, for someone who is still 'new' to the sport, an Olympic quota place is a huge achievement.

In a way, Avneet's arrival on the big stage is a reminder of the talent which is there at home and how newcomers go all out unmindful of pressure.

Avneet's case is again very reminiscent of what Gagan Narang had achieved when he made it to the 2004 Olympics at Athens. Now, he is again bound for Beijing in 2008.

Flip through the annals of Indian shooting and you would find that most have come from a Royal background, like Maharaja Karni Singh or Randhir Singh. After that, it was shooters from a rich cosmopolitan background like Bindra, who did well.

Avneet, in that respect, is somewhat different. She is not city-bred and lives and operates from her base in her native Bhatinda. From a farming family, she is carefully chaperoned by her father to various shooting ranges.

Avneet got to hone her interest in shooting into something more serious when she studied at the Dashmesh Girls College, Badal (Muktsar) five years ago. She won medals at inter-college, inter-university events and the National Games.

But it is the recent exposure at home and abroad and lessons from Hungarian rifle coach Laszlo Sczusak that have seen her become so much more confident and consistent. It shows.

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