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‘Missing Olympic quota not the end’

other Updated: Jun 22, 2008 23:30 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Ronjan Sodhi may have achieved a world record-equalling score at the ISSF World Cup in Belgrade on way to gold, but the 28-year-old double-trap marksman, who started off as a trap shooter in 1997, was at ease with the new-found glory as he spoke about his gradual but sure-footed progress, his chances of making it to the Beijing Games and the ‘declining’ form of shotgun shooters before the Olympics. Excerpts:

You have finally arrived and with a bang.

I had been doing well for the last two years, missing the top spot by a couple of points. But the Asian and national record of 145 at the World Cup in Kerrville (USA) last month boosted my confidence. At the Belgrade World Cup, I equalled the world record (WR) and the final world record (FWR). The fact that no one has achieved this double feat gives me more confidence.

But isn’t the inability to secure an Olympic quota berth a dampener?

It is unfortunate that I don’t have an Olympic quota despite being ranked sixth in the world last year. I expect to go further up after my performance in Belgrade.

What are your chances of competing in Beijing as the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) has already distributed the wildcards?

I am keeping my fingers crossed as the ISSF has distributed all the 29 wildcards to various countries. In the past, they have given ‘hardship’ quotas to deserving shooters and the ISSF wouldn’t want someone who has equalled the world record out of the Olympics.I’ve been performing consistently and the National Rifle Association of India has been recommending my name all along. I think I have a strong case now. Even if I don’t get a hardship quota, it will not be the end of the world.

You were crestfallen after missing the quota at the Asians in Kuwait last year (the last competition to qualify for the Olympics). Did it spur you to do even better?

It took me a long time to overcome the disappointment but thanks to my psychologist, Vaibhav, I’ve become much stronger.

People said you lacked mental toughness after a poor 38/50 in the Kerrville World Cup finals last month.

A lot of people said I couldn’t handle pressure but I trained for one-and-a-half months only for the finals. As a result, I was very relaxed in Belgrade.

Don’t you feel, in a way, you have broken the world record, considering that the double-trap rules have changed?

The rules have been altered drastically — delayed targets have replaced instant target shooting, so in a way, I have broken the world record. Besides, no one in the history of double trap has equalled both the WR and the FWR.

Are shotgun marksmen who have qualified for the Games going through a slump?

No. Most of them have changed their techniques a bit, including R.V.S. Rathore. So the scores have come down. But they are all preparing to peak during the Olympics.