Misfortune struck Tejaswini Sawant in February when she lost her father while participating in the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in Delhi. Six months later, she is on top of the world, having clinched the World Championship title with a record-equalling score in rifle prone at Munich on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Kolhapur shooter, who thought of quitting the sport and came back only because her coaches egged her on, beat an extremely tough field to become one of the few women from the country to clinch a World Championship title. Boxer MC Mary Kom is another.
A composed Sawant told HT from Munich she couldn’t explain her feelings after winning with a world record-equalling score of 597/600 in 50m prone.
“After a long time I feel happy. I lost my father in February while I was competing in the Commonwealth Championships. His health had been failing for more than a year and he was in and out of hospital many times. In January, he was admitted for the last time and breathed his last in February.
“My training suffered a lot as half the time I was on leave and skipping practice to be by his bedside. When he passed away, I was shattered. I tried coming back in the Sydney World Cup but fared badly. I skipped two World Cups and my coach, Stanislav Lapidus, put me on basic training,” said Tejaswini, an officer on special duty with the Maharashtra Sports Department and posted at the Balewadi Complex in Pune.
The contest for Tejaswini — who began shooting 10m air rifle in 1999 and moved to prone and 3-position events in 2006 — went down to the wire with the Indian beating her Polish opponent, Joanna Ewa Nowakowska, on the basis of the higher number of ‘inner 10s’ after the two were tied on 597. Tejaswini had 41 ‘inner 10s’ as compared to Joanna’s 39.
“My sisters, both married and younger to me, are more happy because I have equalled the world record,” said the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games double gold-medallist in air rifle. “I quit air rifle because competition was getting fierce. Former coach, Laszlo Scuczak, asked me to shift to the 50m events and I got the much needed boost when Lapidus became our coach,” she said.
“A few month back she was in a bad condition. I put her on basic training and within four months, she has become the world champion,” said Lapidus from Munich. The triumph notwithstanding, Tejaswini did not clinch a 2012 London Olympic berth as 50m rifle prone is not an Olympic event. “I will try doing better in three-position (an Olympic event) in the coming events to be able to qualify for the Olympics,” she said.