Pistol shooter Anuradha Devi makes a fresh beginning at 33
After winning a medal at the Cairo World Cup on her international debut, she is eyeing a Paris Olympics quota
When 33-year-old pistol shooter Anuradha Devi won a World Cup silver in Cairo last week, she also broke a barrier. The sport has seen an influx of teenagers in recent years. In certain events they have been so dominating that even a 30-year-old could not be blamed for thinking that they are too old for the sport.
Devi felt exactly that and even thought of giving up the sport, continuing only because of her fierce determination. Making her international debut at 33, Devi ((239.9 points) on Friday won silver behind Rio Olympics champion Anna Korakakki of Greece. It could not have been better timed when India have struggled to find a second shooter in air pistol who can win a Paris Olympics quota place. With another Paris Olympics qualification tournament left, Devi is excited about the possibility.
"The World Cup was my first international tournament and I wanted to ensure that I returned with a medal. I have the Paris Olympics on my mind, but the first target would be to win a quota place," she said.
Olympics was in her mind since the day she showed up at coach Jasbir Kumar's range in her hometown Panipat, that too late at 28. Kumar recalls meeting the feisty character. "She was a law graduate and wanted to take up the sport. She had seen a newspaper clipping of Sanjeev Rajput with an international medal and was inspired. I could make out she
knew nothing about the sport and it was just a burst of enthusiasm. I tried to dissuade her and told her to go back," he said.
Devi, preparing for the state Civil Services examination then, didn't budge. Kumar allowed her, thinking that she would not be able to cope with the rigours of training and leave in a few days. To his surprise, Devi sold her house to buy a pistol and shifted closer to his academy to train.
"Bas junoon tha ek(she was obsessed with shooting). She discontinued her studies. The academy was six km away from her house, so she shifted closer and started living on rent. I then realised that she is made of a different mettle," Kumar said.
Devi trains 10 hours a day and has never come late for training. "Her hard work and dedication are exemplary. There is no age barrier in shooting, but yes, sometimes she felt depressed and used to tell me that 'maybe I have made a wrong choice and should leave the sport'," Kumar said.
The coach would then boost her with examples of shooters like Iran's Javad Foroughi who at 44 won the air pistol gold in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The World cup medal has fuelled her ambition. She is only looking ahead. "Whenever I felt demotivated Jasbir sir, my parents and my husband, who is my biggest support, stood behind me. My husband is a home guard in Haryana and puts in his salary to finance my shooting. It is an expensive sport. There has been so much struggle to reach so far," Devi said.
She was elated when she was named in the Indian team for Cairo but felt ill before the event. "The NRAI support staff and doctors were there to take care. Once I made it to the final, I wanted to give it my all."