The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anjali aims for 10m air rifle medal in Athens
- Indian ace hit hard by cash crunch

New Delhi: Unlike her rivals from Russia and China, she neither has a sponsor nor a specialist coach but India’s main medal hope Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat is preparing in right earnest to hit the bull’s eye in 10m air rifle event at the Athens Olympics next year.

Anjali, the only Indian shooter to have secured a berth in the Olympics so far, is concentrating on the ISSF World Cups preceding the Athens games to fine-tune her technique further.

“I would like to experiment different things at these ISSF events under the pressure of competition,” she said here emphasising that she will not bother too much about adding more to her collection of one gold and three silver medals won in World Cups.

The CISF inspector, who won a quota place to Athens winning a silver in World Cup in USA last year, is not the kind to sit back and rue about what is not available but facts do present a grim picture.

“For almost two years till the ammunition arrived early this year, we did not get even a single round to train. We were forced to have dry practice.

“Abroad you can buy everything over the counter and in countries like Germany, the national team is their national property. The shooters do not have to bother about anything other than their performance,” said Anjali who is training here along with other members of the national squad which will compete in the ISSF World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia, from June 2 to 9.

Anjali is convinced that the government can do more to help the sport like in finding sponsors.

“The government tries to help but still more can be done. If the government approaches the private sector they will come forward to sponsor,” Anjali said.

Though she was ranked No. 1 in the world during last July-August, Anjali is yet to capture the corporate sector’s real attention unlike a few of the chess players in the country.

“The Hinduja foundation sponsored me during the Sydney Olympics and Mahindras came forward during the World Cup in Atlanta last year,” said Anjali, currently ranked sixth in the world.

But more than sponsors, it is the absence of a specailist coach that Anjali is more concerned about.

“We had a very good coach, Laszlo Zucsak from Hungary during 1999-2000 and because of whom the team did very well. But after the last Olympics, India did not renew his contract and Japan quickly netted him as their coach.

“It’s because of him I could achieve this much. But after Zucsak no one was appointed and we do not have a specialist coach till now,” she said.

Stressing that she does not need a coach at this juncture, as it may be difficult to get adjusted to a new training regime before the Olympics, Anjali said she gets in touch with Zucsak whenever in trouble.

“But for the B-level team it is very important to have a specialist who can help in the technical aspects,” she said.

On shooting being looked on as a costly sport, Anjali said, “it is mainly due to the fact that nothing is manufactured in India. Everything has to be imported.”

Anjali, who will also be competing in the .22 sport rifle at Athens, said people prefer air rifle to .22 because of the cost of the ammuniton. “One bullet (for .22) cost Rs 10, whereas 500 pellets cost only Rs 250,” she said.

Looking back at her 15-year long career Anjali said “I started late at the age of 20.”

A former NCC cadet, Anjali got attracted to the sport while studying at Kirti College in Mumbai in 1988, after winning few medals during competitions at the NCC’s annual training camps.

“I got fascinated watching the seniors in action at the Maharashtra Rifle Association range. And then I won a medal at a national competition in 1988 in Ahmedabad in .22 with little practice,” Anjali said about her first notable achievement.

“But we wasted the first 10 years. Our association only had two weapons and one of them was not working.

Six shooters had to share the remaining one — like 15 minutes per person. At other times we trained imagining that we were actually shooting,” said Anjali about the hard struggle.

The champion, who won the gold in the last World Cup in Fort Benning, now owns a state-of-the-art Feinwerkbau, German make, air rifle that costs Rs 1 lakh.

The euphoria of winning a gold at the World Cup earlier this month is yet to die down for Anjali. “It is a pleasure creating history for India with a good score. Especially so when the level of competition is very high.”

Anjali shot 399/400 in the qualifying round. Then she came up with 103.2/109 in the finals, taking a firm step towards Olympics glory.

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