(From left) Gagan Narang, coach Amitabha Chatterjee and Joydeep Karmakar at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London in April
“Perechhey!” screamed one over the telephone. “Kaamyaab ho gaya,” responded the other. Yes, their boy had done it.
When Gagan Narang was taking aim at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London, on Monday evening, two of his coaches were sitting in Calcutta, eyes glued to the television. Amitabha Chatterjee and Pradip Kumar Acharya are in the team of seven national coaches for rifle and pistol, under chief coach Sunny Thomas. Both the city-based coaches specialise in rifles and so have been watching Gagan from close quarters.
“At one time, hockey was our calling card at the Olympics. Now it’s shooting,” an elated Chatterjee told Metro minutes after Narang shot 10.7 to win a bronze.
Gagan, said Acharya, is a “cool-headed boy”. “He may or may not fare well but his body language never changes.” But Chatterjee could make out that the marksman was feeling the pressure when he hit two consecutive 9s with his seventh and eighth shots. “At that point he had slipped to fourth place and I had my heart in my mouth,” said Acharya.
“But like Bindra, who had won in Beijing by scoring 10.8 in the last shot, Gagan too kept his nerve to repeat his best shot at the last,” rounded off Chatterjee, who was tracking the progress of both wards, Abhinav Bindra and Narang, on the Internet. “Gagan started late. Even when others had finished 12-14 shots, he had still to start. I was wondering what was happening to the boy.”
A shooter, the coach explained, gets an hour and 45 minutes to shoot six series of 10 shots each, i.e. a total of 600 shots, to qualify for the finals.
“You can finish shooting in 10 minutes or you can take up all the time. The duration includes the sighting time in which one adjusts one’s body balance, sighting and the rifle. Before that one is also free to shoot as many practice shots as one pleases.”
In the selections only whole numbers are counted — even a 9.9 means 9 — but in the finals the scores are taken till the first place in decimals. “The inner 10th ring you saw him hit seven times in the final is just 0.5mm wide. It is divided into 10 segments to pinpoint the accuracy of a shot,” said Chatterjee.
He had trained with track queen P.T. Usha in the Olympic camp in Delhi in 1984 and had keenly felt the nation’s heartbreak when she lost the bronze in a photo-finish in Los Angeles, just like Milkha Singh decades ago. “After years of being pipped to the post, may be our wheel of Olympic fortune is turning,” said Chatterjee.
Gagan, he recalled, had suffered a knee injury last year and could not play in two World Cups. “Thank god, he recovered in time.”
Acharya, who is also the chief coach at the North Calcutta Rifle Club, remembers the huge spurt in membership after Bindra won the gold four years ago. “I am expecting the same kind of response after today. What’s better than an Olympic medal as motivation for children and their parents?”
If Chatterjee last accompanied the team to the London World Cup in April, Acharya went for the World Cups in Milan and Munich in May.