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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

10m air rifle is Ayonika Paul’s trigger event; Olympics remains the target

Shoots to silver at Railways rifle championships in Pune

pune Updated: Oct 20, 2019 17:34 IST
Oumar Aga
Oumar Aga
HT, Pune
Ayonika Paul won silver in the 10m air rifle at the All India Railway Rifle Shooting Championship at Balewadi stadium on Saturday.
Ayonika Paul won silver in the 10m air rifle at the All India Railway Rifle Shooting Championship at Balewadi stadium on Saturday.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
         

PUNE 2014 Commonwealth Games’ silver medalist, Ayonika Paul, representing Central Railway, shot to the second position in the individual 10m Air Rifle event at the 54th All India Railway Rifle Shooting Championship at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Saturday.

The shooting championship concludes on October 22 and has several top Indian shooters competing.

Ayonika, who has numerous national and international accolades to her name, finished behind Western Railway’s Shreya Saksena.

The city of Pune is familiar territory for 27-year-old Ayonika, who has spent a lot of time training in the city. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Ayonika has trained under Austrian coach, Thomas Farnik, in Delhi and Pune.

Ayonika and Aliana Paul, daughters of a swimming coach Ashim Paul, were always encouraged to partake in various sporting events when they were in school.

In her early school days, swimming was in the cross-hairs as her father was a coach in that particular sport. At the age of 14, after dabbling in sports like swimming, basketball and skating, she turned her attention to shooting.

Inspired by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathod’s hard-earned silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Ayonika began focusing on the 10m Air Rifle event in 2006.

“The first gun I picked up was a 10m air rifle, and ever since then, I have not changed that. I will try the Small Bore event as well, but only as an amateur”, said Ayonika.

In 2007, Ayonika was part of the national team. “The Asian Championships were on and numerous players and athletes were fulfilling Olympic quotas for their respective countries. Seeing that inspired me to push further and helped me develop that hunger of participating on an international stage”, said Ayonika.

The 27-year-old participated in her first international event in 2007, which was the ISSF Junior World Championship in Suhl, Germany.

Ayonika won a double-gold medal.

“Shooting was something I could not leave. At first I found it boring, but then later there was a small match during which I learned something and immediately the next day, I was at the range because I wanted to implement what I had learned. After that, day-by-day, I fell in love with shooting. I did not think about where I would reach or what level I would participate on. My parents were very supportive when I picked the sport. I did not let my academics suffer due to shooting, and seeing that my parents were helpful. They got me the proper shooting gear, including an air-rifle,” said Ayonika.

Ayonika went on to shoot her way to a gold medal in the ISSF Junior World Championship in Munich, Germany in 2008, which proved to be a major boost for her on an international stage.

In 2012, she started training under the renowned Austrian rifle shooter, Thomas Farnik.

In 2011, Ayonika finished third in the junior category of the Asian Air Gun Championship in Kuwait. Under her new coach, Farnik, she gained momentum and went on to participate 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where she bagged a silver medal and finished seventh in 2014 Asian Games.

She added another medal to her kitty during the 2014 ISSF World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia; a bronze medal.

Ayonika clinched an Olympic berth when she won a silver medal at the 2016 Asian Olympic Shooting Tournament in New Delhi, finishing ahead of Pooja Ghatkar, who had to settle for a bronze medal.

The 27-year-old shooter did not let her academics suffer during her stint as an international level shooter. She holds a Master’s degree in Electronic Engineering, specialising in Image Processing from the University of Mumbai. She has also won the Maharashtra Government’s Shiv Chhatrapati Award and is a member of the National Rifle Association of India.

On point

“I was making a few changes and adjustments with my rifle in this tournament, and that is why I finished second. I want to focus on the next national championship and do my best.I won’t be participating in the Olympics because there are three shooters who are ahead of me.”

Ayonika Paul, 10m Air Rifle

“I have been coaching Ayonika for seven years and it has been a pleasure to teach somebody as talented and smart as she is. She has surprised me on various occasions by adapting to new techniques very quickly. In the previous training camp, we worked with a small bore rifle for the first time and she adapted to it really well and we got good results. Judging by the way she adapted to it, I am sure that she can be successful in the small bore event. Maybe in the future, she can also take part in it on a professional level.” - Thomas Farnik, Ayonika’s coach

Thomas Farnik - Austrian soldier coaching Indian shooters

- Competed at six consecutive Olympics from 1992 to 2012.

- Best finish: 5th at the 2008 Olympics.

- Won gold in the 10m Air Rifle event at the 2006 ISSF World Cup, setting a world record of 703.1 at the finals in Granada that survived till 2008, which was broken by Gagan Narang.

- Soldier in the Austrian army.

- Technical trainer for the Indian Army Marksmanship Unit, to train Indian shooters to compete at international events.