The 2010 season wasn't as bad for pistol shooter Samaresh Jung as critics made it out to be. Still, it wasn't good enough to motivate him to strive for a ticket to the London Olympics.
The start of the next season saw a scramble for Olympic quota places, country not individual, and few doubted Samaresh's calibre, as he was the best athlete at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Things, however, did not go his way. With each passing day, he lost ground and the National Rifle Association of India's (NRAI) new selection policy for the Olympics, which benefitted in-form shooters, further dashed his hopes of representing the country in his second Games after Beijing 2008. "My form dipped and I wasn't able to catch up with my rivals," recalls Samaresh.
That's in the past, though. He is getting ready for a new beginning, one which will see him to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, and hopefully on the podium. Catching up, he says, is difficult but not impossible. Recently, he shot a world-class score of 587 in 10m air pistol.
Road ahead is steep
The road ahead, says the national-record holder in 10m air pistol and 50m free pistol, is steep. "There is no system in the country which encourages players when the chips are down. If you are not in the national squad, pursuing target shooting can be beyond the means of most. Making plans to prepare for international competitions like the Olympics is expensive," he says.
"The daily cost of training and hiring a coach in Europe is close to R25000. The cost could go up if the services of support staff are taken," he adds.
Nicknamed 'Goldfinger' for his exploits during the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Samaresh feels the time is ripe for a change in the government and federation's policies. Despite being a national champion, he couldn't avail of the financial benefits under the sports ministry's 'talent search and training' scheme.
"Had it (scheme) not been rigid, it could have given me that extra edge when I wanted it the most," says the 40-year-old shooter.
Perhaps, that could be one of the reasons why the national record holder wants the "existing policy to be changed so that more players benefit".