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Down and out, Rana makes talent count

Rana shot gold in standard pistol, once again showing that there can be no one like him in terms of sheer talent, writes S Kannan.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2006 01:27 IST
S Kannan
S Kannan

It was in 1994 when Jaspal Rana, a precocious teenager, made sports followers aware of an event called standard pistol. He won gold in the junior category at the World Championship in Milano, with a record to boot.

At that time, his family lived in a small house in Pushp Vihar, where neighbours realised the boy next door had done something big only after reporters and photographers started showing up.

Those were days when getting a quote from Rana was impossible - no email or cellphones, and there wasn't even a phone in the Rana house. His mother spoke of the boy's dedication and talent and how he relished home-made paranthas at the Karni Singh Range in Tughlakabad.

Three years later, he got married to a charming girl called Reema. Was the young man, perhaps a few months short of 21, entering wedlock a bit too early? Wouldn't it be better if he focused only on his shooting career?

Well, Jaspal has always been different and loved pressure the same way Leander Paes does. Marriage made no difference to the fun-loving young man's attitude.

Rana was not a slogger at the ranges but had such a profusion of natural talent that he could do well.

A year later, Jaspal 'flopped' at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, when the front part of his weapon came off. And in 2002, Jaspal returned empty-handed from Busan. Criticism is something Jaspal has never cared about, and at the start of the year, when "Goldfinger" Samresh Jung was the toast of the nation after the Commonwealth Games, Jaspal did not cry or crave for attention.

Jaspal's habits have changed. He does enjoy a little lager and his teeth do suggest tobacco has done some damage. Somehow, despite all that, his index finger has not lost touch when it comes to pulling the trigger.

When Hindustan Times spoke to him six months ago, he wasn't evasive when asked where his career was headed. Rana had come to terms with the fact that he would never shoot an Olympics medal. "Bhaiyya, Asian Games is big for me and the country, that's my main goal," he said.

Was he spending enough time at the range? He didn't give a straight reply, but it was clear that, straddled with the responsibility of being a husband and father of two, he was pressed for time.

On Thursday, when Rana shot gold in standard pistol, he once again showed that there can be no one like him in terms of sheer talent.

'Pistol prodigy' was a tag he got in 1994. And he can still wear it round his neck, for it's not often an Indian shoots an individual gold on a stage as big as the Asian Games.

First Published: Dec 08, 2006 01:25 IST