Four tin walls, eight international marksmen, including a junior world champion — the mathematics of the Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje Shooting Range in Dudhali, Kolhapur, just do not seem to add up.
But sporting success is not bound by logic, there never existed a universal formula that could guarantee success in sport. And this state-run training range in the heart of Kolhapur proves the converse — that strength of mind and iron, coupled with talent, can get you results from the humblest of quarters.
Started in 1998 with the efforts of shooting enthusiast Jaisingrao Kusale, the Krida Prabodhini centre — the major arena at the range — lacks almost every basic facility international shooters expect. Even the 10m indoor range, the alma mater for these stars, is nothing more than a makeshift shelter constructed with tin sheets to give it an indoor feel.
“For a few years, we would only shoot outdoors,” says range caretaker and coach Ajit Patil. “In 2000, we invited international trainer David Lymon to help us. It was then that we used these sheets, thrown away by the Balewadi Stadium authorities, to build an indoor facility,” says Patil, who then worked as a clerk at the centre managed by his uncle.
That was one step ahead, but the road to success was mined with troubles. The likes of junior world air rifle champion Navnath Faratade and Melbourne Commonwealth gold-medallist Tejaswini Sawant, both products of the range, had to use hand pulleys to place targets and check their scores for years. Finally, help came in from Bollywood star Nana Patekar, a shooting aficionado.
Faratade’s triumph in Croatia last year suddenly brought the centre into limelight. Also came fame and some riches, which helped in the acquisition of more weapons to train with. But it only meant that the shooters had more weapons to share.
Faratade, Fulchand Bangar and Sandeep Tarte, who all have done well at the highest level, are from very poor backgrounds and have to depend on this centre for weapons and ammunition. With the monsoon just round the corner, Patil and his trainees will be revisited by familiar trouble. “Every time it rains heavily, the adjoining drain overflows and the range is filled with sewage water,” Patil says. “The water even damages the weapons and the kits.”
“We try and protect the weapons as much as possible but since the range is in a low-lying area, there is not much we can do,” Patil’s words are accompany an air of despondency.
Last year, the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, which owns the facility, announced plans to build a state-of-the-art range at the venue but nothing has happened so far due to a lack of funds. Patil said that the state government has also shown an interest in developing the range as a sports complex. Like other plans, this too might never see the light of day, but whatever happens, one thing is sure — the shooting stars will continue to shine on Dudhali’s horizon.