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Shooting was just a hobby for me, says Heena Sidhu

A fruitful year behind her, where she won a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games bronze, the multifaceted shooter is looking forward to qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

htls Updated: Oct 08, 2018 18:30 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
htls2018,Heena Sidhu,shooting
Heena Sidhu, Indian shooter, during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Taj Palace in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, September 6, 2018. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

From becoming India’s first woman World No 1 in pistol shooting to giving a glamorous feel to the sport, Heena Sidhu is a trendsetter. A fruitful year behind her, where she won a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games bronze, the multifaceted shooter is looking forward to qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and feels shooters are being overburdened with a surfeit of national camps. She spoke at length in an interview at the HT Leadership Summit.

Excerpts

Q: I hear your father was a national-level shooter and your brother too pursued shooting for some time. So did taking up shooting sport come naturally to you?

A: My father played just one Nationals and that too just for the sake of participation. But as a family, we have always been very passionate about guns, about shooting. We lived in a joint family, so as a child I always had guns around me. That’s how I harboured this passion for guns, not so much that I would one day make a career out of it. When I started shooting I didn’t have this thing in mind that I would one day compete at the Olympics. It was just a hobby; I simply wanted to enjoy the sport. It was only later that my love for the sport slowly transformed into competitive shooting.

Q: Was there any specific reason you picked up air pistol, given that you were always surrounded by big guns... I mean shotguns? Moreover, there was a lot of enthusiasm to take up shotgun shooting around the time RVS Rathore won the Athens Olympic silver.

A: When I started shooting I told my father I wanted to be a big gun shooter. He also said okay. My first choice was the rifle. But it looked very techie with all the cumbersome contraptions; the eye piece, the gas cylinders, the heavy jackets, stiff trousers, heavy shoes, stands etc. I just didn’t like the idea of carrying so much. I felt completely out of my comfort. My father then said, okay, try air pistol for one year. Anyway it is a lot cheaper. Given my shifting passion, my father was sceptical how long I’ll retain my interest in air pistol.

Q: Did the performance of Rathore and Abhinav Bindra motivate you to excel in the sport?

A: When I started in 2006, I was definitely motivated by the exploits of Rathore and Abhinav. All those medals motivated youngsters like me who was just starting out. Looking at them gave me the inspiration to aim higher.

Q: Do you think the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was a disappointment as we were expecting a big haul from the Indian shooters?

A: Well, I don’t think so. Mairaj Ahmed Khan made it to the skeet final, then Gurpeet Singh missed the finals berth by a whisker, Abhinav Bindra was also in the final. So, if you look at the overall scene, 4- 5 of the 12-memebr shooting contingent did really well. My performance, though, was not that great... I admit it. Apart from preparations, a lot of luck is also required. We didn’t come back with a medal but we could have. Abhinav’s performance was as good as winning a medal; we should give him a medal in our hearts.

However, looking at 2020 Tokyo, and given the fact that the shooting federation, the government and the sports ministry were not too happy with our Rio showing, we hope to do much better in Tokyo. I can see a perceptible change everywhere. Still, no one can predict a medal at the Games but definitely 2020 will be much better.

Q: Do you thing the frequent changes effected by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) are detrimental to the sport?

A: In 2017, they came up with the mixed team event (for gender parity in Olympic Movement). In 2018, they increased the number of shots in qualification from 40 to 60. It is not good for shooting because they don’t give you time to adjust. At least have a constant rule for one Olympic cycle. That too is too quick, but please don’t change the rule every year.

Q: Pistol coach Jaspal Rana has been talking about burnouts and is saying periods of rest and recovery are important...

A: Yes, I agree. It is required. The burnout is not so much because of the number of competitions we are playing. For juniors like Manu Bhaker and the likes, they have to compete in both the junior and senior categories which makes life tougher for them. But we are getting more of these burnouts because of constant camps. We are having month-long camps in the lead up to every competition. We don’t want such camps. We want camps that are crisp, shorter in duration. Or, sometimes they may be made optional for those who have been out for long. Suppose someone has been out competing for six months, he definitely deserves a break and for such shooters a camp should be optional. Just give me that sense of comfort in my life.

Q: The Arjuna Awards throws up a controversy every year. Is there a way it can be avoided?

A: I have also suffered. I got my Arjuna a year late. I got it in 2014 whereas I should have got it in 2013. Raj Kumari, a veteran shooter, got it in 2013 on the basis of an Asian Championship gold in a non-Olympic sport. I had the CWG and Asian Games medals... I had a World Cup gold and I had competed in the Olympic Games. The system needs to be streamlined.

First Published: Oct 08, 2018 17:56 IST