Golden touch: Sift rise to the top

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
Sep 27, 2023 05:40 PM IST

As the 50m 3P rifle gold shows, once Sift Kaur Samra sets her mind on something, she is hard to stop

Sift Kaur Samra has scaled the peaks of a gruelling discipline in shooting -- 50m rifle three positions -- at a pace that few others could even imagine. In 2021, she broke into the Indian junior team and competed at the junior world championships in Peru. A year later she was shooting at the senior world championships in Cairo, and this year she has already won a Paris Olympics berth for India, and now an Asian Games individual gold and team silver medal with a world record to boot.

Indian shooter Sift Kaur Samra wins gold medal in the women's 50 m rifle 3P individual final at the ongoing Asian Games(SAI Media Twitter) PREMIUM
Indian shooter Sift Kaur Samra wins gold medal in the women's 50 m rifle 3P individual final at the ongoing Asian Games(SAI Media Twitter)

Her rate of progress is incredibly fast in a gruelling discipline that requires shooters to shoot from three different positions -- kneeling, prone and standing -- and usually takes years of training to master.

Samra, all of 21, though,m has made it look easy. "She is very passionate and focused about the sport," says father Pawandeep Singh.

"When not shooting she enjoys her time with family and friends. She always smiles and is very affable," says the businessman father, who owns rice mills in Faridkot.

She took up shooting when she was in school and her teacher, who was a family friend, introduced her to the sport.

"She did well in school meets in the sport and earned certificates. But we never took the sport seriously. There was no range here in Faridkot, and did not know how to go ahead in the sport. We never understood the value of those certificates," says an emotional Singh.

Sift, however, had found her calling. She loved the stage, winning medals gave her a huge high. Standing on the podium, she could sense that she has an inborn talent and she wanted to give it a proper try. She insisted on continuing with shooting and her parents eventually gave in to her stubborness. They even put up a 10m range at home and converted it to 50m with paper targets.

"My ambition was fuelled by the medals I won in the state and north zone competitions. I have never topped my class and there at the range, I was winning the top prize in every meet. I just loved the sport," says Sift.

As Sift started growing in the sport, they looked beyond their hometown for coaching. "We went to Chandigarh and got to know more about the sport. She then started to train under Deepali Deshpande (international shooter and former national coach)."

This doesn't mean she neglected her studies though. It was a fine balancing act but she managed to break into India's senior national side and also cleared her MBBS examination almost at the same time last year.

When she was in Cairo last year, competing in her first ISSF world championships -- gunning for a Paris Olympic quota -- she got the news of making it to the Medical College in Faridkot. Her younger brother -- Sidkabir Singh -- also joined shooting following in Sift's path but then left the sport and switched to medical studies. But her success in both fields also presented a big dilemma in front of Sift -- shooting or medicine, what would it be?

"My parents, at first, were in two minds whether I should concentrate on MBBS. I was also thinking what to do. How far I can go in shooting? I was competing in so many international events, shooting in back-to-back competitions. It was so much of travel that I was exhausted. But I was in India team and I have this great opportunity to qualify for Paris Olympics. To do my MBBS at the same time, it would have been difficult. My parents were supportive so they gave me one year for shooting," says Sift.

One year was all that Sift gave to herself -- to fully focus on shooting. The range was her home and she wanted to deliver in every competition as if it was her final opportunity.

In October, she won gold at the National Games, then won her first national title in Thiruvananthapuram, beating a tough field that included Tokyo Olympian Anjum Moudgil. Every medal was proof that she was in right direction. This year she won her first individual world cup medal (bronze) in Bhopal, then finished 5th at the World Championships in Baku, enough to seal a Paris Olympics quota place. Last month, she won gold at the World University Games in Chengdu, China.

And it was China again on Wednesday that proved to be a happy hunting ground for her. Sift set a new world and Games record with a score of 469.6, winning gold medal in spectacular fashion beating world champion Qiongyue Zhang of China. Ashi Chouksey also won an individual bronze.

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