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The unsung coach who has shaped many a career

other Updated: Aug 08, 2010 23:28 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

He never picked up a gun for competition even at the district level and was not officially recognised as a coach till 2007.

But Ajit Patil's contribution to Indian shooting can be gauged from the fact that the 36-year-old has given the country two World champions and about a dozen international shooters.

Newly crowned World Shooting champion, Tejaswini Sawant, also belongs to the Maharashtra government's Krida Prabodini stable in Kolhapur where Patil has been coaching underprivileged kids and few other trainees for over a decade.

Patil has been associated with the Prabodhini since its inception in 1997 as an assistant to his uncle Jaisingrao Kusale, himself an international shooter and the brain behind establishing a shooting range in Kolhapur.

A commerce graduate, Patil spend most of his time at the centre helping his uncle maintain the range. And when Kusale passed away in 2000, he took over the mantle of coaching young kids picked under the state government's scheme from rural areas.

“I used to do a clerical job in the Prabodhini when my uncle was principal. But he taught me a lot about shooting and after he passed away, I am working to make his dream come true,” Patil told HT from Kolhapur. According to state government records, Patil was part of the clerical staff at the centre till 2007 on a salary of Rs 4,000 per month, before his trainees began pushing his case with the authorities to acknowledge his efforts as a coach.

Though Abhijeet Konduskar was the first shooter from the centre to break into the Indian team for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, the Prabodhini came into limelight when Navnath Fartade bagged the 10m air rifle gold in the World Championships in Zagreb four years back. “Today we have about 12 international shooters and though some have moved to Pune and other places, they are still attached to the centre,” Patil adds.

Tejaswini and Fartade make sure they join the other campers for at least a week every year and help train them. Fartade and fellow shooters even tried to push Patil’s case for a permanent job with the state government but according to rules, a person needs to do a NIS course or have a B. Ped degree to be appointed coach.

But Patil has no regrets, saying he is happy the authorities have recognised the role of the Prabodhini and are building a state-of-art shooting range in the city.