Self-belief is a trait Manavjit Sandhu was never short of, and the levels more than matched his big-boned structure. It was as an unabashed teenager that he won the trap gold in the 1990 sub-junior Nationals. For most, the start would have given hope for the future, but in Manavjit it instilled the belief that he was cut out for the big stage.Lest, it be misconstrued as brashness, father, Gurbir Singh, steps in. "Manav did not commit the initial blunders the others do," he says. The correct baby steps could be attributed to several factors. Apart from having an Olympic shooter as coach and teammate (the father-son duo shot for India at the 1994 Asian Championship), the right dose of foreign exposure, in terms of coaching and competition, as early as 1993, left the youngster shorn of stage fright.
The quick ripening meant Manavjit has been more of a “father figure” to Karanjit than an elder brother. Given his size and winning a few international medals early on stoked the desire to dominate. Karanjit reminisces how he always ended up on the “negative side in physical games”. Manavjit’s making it to the Indian team was a source of inspiration. “I was part of the junior camp in 1995, while Manav was in the senior team, yet, he would take time out to give tips.
Time has moved on, and so has Karanjit. A transition from shooting to golf has occurred, but he continues to idolise his brother. “Manavjit’s success sets the benchmark higher,” says the budding pro.
The pied piper
The bowed head with a deadpan expression as he moves between stations is a misnomer. Off the shooting range, Manavjit is a hit in the family, especially amongst the children and elders, enthralling them with his tales and humour. “My mother calls him ‘raunki’ because of his ability to hold audience,” says Gurbir.
Despite the streak of ambition, a sense of contentment runs through, a trait which has influenced Kangan, his wife of six years. Despite carrying the tag of a world champion, an off day at the range is always round the corner, but the family is impressed by the way he stays in control of his feelings. “One can learn from his anger management. He might share a few technical points but prefers to be left alone. However bad it may be, he never carries the baggage to the next day,” says Kangan.
Earlier, reaching out for the camera and clicking away feverishly —nature or wildlife, was a source of outlet. Now, with the arrival of Ameir, the task is accomplished indoors. Whatever little time he spends at home, watching the one-year-old closely is therapeutic. Contentment is a vital component of his persona, but for once, ambition led Manavjit to get ahead of himself in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics. “He overdid the physical training by running 10km, which led him to lose 20kg. It was a case of too much, too close and it drastically altered the gun fit,” says Gurbir.
Lesson learnt, a balance has been struck between the weight and gun fit, and the focus is on what he is best at — finishing strongly.
Hobbies: Loves ghazals, an ardent fan of Mehdi Hasan. Was addicted to tomato ketchup as a child. At a wedding, had vanilla ice cream with ketchup.