By Asif Kalam
A day after the women archers started their campaign, the women’s shooting team is going to take the stage at Rio. Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul will compete in the 10m Air Rifle event today, and Heena Sidhu has two events, the 10m Air Pistol tomorrow, and the 25m Pistol on 9th August.
For former world number one Heena Sidhu, Rio will be her second Olympics. She shot a still-unbeaten world record score at the ISSF World Cup Finals in Munich in 2013. In April 2014, she became the first Indian pistol shooter to be ranked world number one. Sportskeeda reports that when asked about the uphill path in front of women athletes aspiring to succeed, she said:
“It is really hard for women athletes to perform and stay at the elite level. I am lucky as I have supporting parents and husband, but there are many other stories of women being forced to quit due to parental and societal pressure. The situation is changing for sure though, with such initiatives as well as athletes like Mary Kom and their stories coming into the limelight. It is a start and I hope to see more women compete in the future!”
She won her berth at Rio in style, by winning the gold at the Asia Olympic Qualifiers in January.
Olympic debutant Apurvi Chandela was inspired to take up shooting after watching Abhinav Bindra win gold at Beijing Olympics in 2008, and just eight years later, she is within sight of that podium herself. She reminisces about the inspirational moment which turned her from sports aficionado and potential sports journalist to sportsperson here:
“It’s totally random. I liked watching sports a lot. But since I hadn’t played any seriously, I thought the next best thing would be to become a sports journalist. But seeing Bindra win the gold, I thought why not give it a shot?”
This January she won two golds, shot a world record score, and was crowned the best shooter among both men and women at the Swedish Cup Grand Prix.
Ayonika Paul qualified for Rio by winning the silver in the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament. In 2014 she won a silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and a bronze at the ISSF World Cup in Maribor. You might think she has her plate full being an international level shooter, but in between she finds time to pursue a Master’s degree in Electronics Engineering! Her father says, “Khelte khelte kabhi Ph.D. bhi kar legi, pata nahi chalega” (Alongside sport, she may finish her Ph.D. too without anyone noticing). We suspect she has secret access to 48-hour days, and some day her father’s witty remark may actually come true.
The 10m Air Rifle qualifiers featuring Chandela and Paul begin at 5 pm today, soon followed by the finals. Sidhu’s 10m Air Pistol event begins with the qualifiers at 6.30 pm on 7th August, and the finals soon after. Tune in on DD National or STAR Sports, and you may get to watch a medal-winning performance from these talented women.