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Rathore misses friend in foe

With Al Makhtoum absent, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore will be sans mentor and a competitor, reports Ajai Masand.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 02:59 IST

There are few things people value more than their life — and one of them is true friendship. For double-trap marksman and India's top medal hope in Doha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, his chum Ahmed Al Makhtoum of the United Arab Emirates is a friend, philosopher and guide.

The fact that the UAE hotshot outgunned Rathore at the Athens Olympic Games to take the gold does not matter. Despite the fierce rivalry, they have one thing in common — standing for each other in the hour of crisis.

On Wednesday at the Al Lousial ranges, even as Rathore slung his gun on his shoulder for one last practice round, his heart went out to his buddy, who would not be competing at Doha, slighted as he feels by his own country.

“He feels hurt that his country has not treated him well and that's the reason he has not participated this year in any international competition… but we'll see him in action soon, hopefully sometime next year,” said Rathore.

The fact that Al Makhtoum would not be in Doha is cause for great disappointment for Rathore. “I trained with him for over two weeks in Dubai before coming to Doha and I feel I can take on every possible challenge… I wish he was here too," said Rathore.

“He is my ‘pseudo coach’ and I turn to him for advice when I require it, and he is always there for me,” said Rathore, on whose broad shoulders rest India's hopes of clinching gold in shooting.

Quite pleased with the conditions in Doha, Rathore said: “These ranges are one of the best in the world and the wind has been quite constant all day, so that's hardly a worry… The worrying part is that we are having to fend for ourselves so far away from the city, with no food or drink. It’s kind of jungle survival for us here.” The women shooters were more vocal about the conditions. “Only one toilet for three of us in the (Asiad Village) room!” said pistol markswoman Sonia Rai. “Other shooters are also living in similar conditions.”

Gagan’s pain in the neck

Talking of survival, rifle shooter Gagan Narang was not in very good shape just two days before the start of the shooting competition after he complained of terrible pain in the neck and had to be given medication.

“He has been suffering from a nagging pain in the neck for quite some time and it got worse yesterday — in fact, he was in tears due to the pain. That's when we contacted doctors in Delhi for medicines,” said national coach Sunny Thomas.

“He is 90 per cent fit now and is practising at the 50m ranges. We did not want to take any chances with medicines and wanted to be doubly sure that the pills are not on the list of banned substances.”

For now, the shooters seem to have got what they wanted — a beautiful range, lovely weather and a couple of days of good practice. There is every reason to expect them to come up with some superlative performances — the Chinese and the Koreans notwithstanding.