Games & medals
|#19||Shooting||Sporting Pistol, 25 metres|
Rahi SARNOBAT biography
Rahi Sarnobat is a record-breaking 25m pistol shooter from India.
The 29-year-old was the first Indian pistol shooter to win a World Cup gold and the first Indian woman shooter to win gold at the Asian Games.
When she won bronze at the ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning in 2011, she also became the first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the 25m pistol event.
Born in the small town of Kolhapur in Maharashtra, Rahi Sarnobat’s desire for sport was helped to be realised by her school senior and fellow shooter, Tejaswini Sawant.
Though Sawant is a rifle shooter, her younger colleague did not quite know the difference between a rifle and pistol when she visited the shooting range as a 16-year-old and opted for the latter at random.
Rahi Sarnobat’s talent soon surfaced - within six months of formal training, she won two golds and a bronze in pistol events at a national shooting camp and then went on to win the Super Cup at the Junior Championships in Germany.
Her biggest moment as a teenager arrived when she won the 25m pistol gold at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games at Pune.
Two years later, Rahi Sarnobat triumphed at the main event, winning the 25m pistol pairs gold at the Commonwealth Games with Anisa Sayyed to add to her silver in the individual event.
It was a proud moment for Kolhapur as her inspiration, Tejaswini Sawant too returned with two silver medals of her own.
Looking back, it was just the beginning of Sarnobat’s career peak. The bronze at Fort Benning, in just her sixth World Cup, happened the following year and the biggest stage of them all, the London 2012 Olympics beckoned when she was just 21.
The shooter finished 19th in the 25m pistol with a score of 579, missing the cut to the final by a four-point margin, a tidy outing for the youngster who had just graduated to the big stage.
Not entirely happy with her preparations, Rahi Sarnobat returned to the range in order to find improvements. At the 2013 ISSF World Cup in Changwon, South Korea, she held her nerves in the final to beat local hope Kyeongae Kim to become the first pistol shooter from India to win a gold medal at the World Cup.
She defended her Commonwealth Games gold in the 2014 edition and also claimed her maiden Asian Games medal the same year, a bronze medal in the 25m pistol team event.
Just as she was building up momentum for another Olympics place, Rahi Sarnobat began feeling the after-effects of a bad fall in 2015, an accident that had seriously impacted her elbow.
The shooter had to take time off to allow the injury to heal, a decision that even left her contemplating retirement a year later, as youngsters Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary started making waves.
The shooter had not yet regained full confidence a few months after returning to shooting in 2017 but her inclusion in the national team gave her just the boost she wanted.
The same year, she also decided to be coached by German-Mongolian Munkhbayar Dorjsuren, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist.
The two had competed against each other at the 2012 London Olympics and Dorjsuren’s experience of standing on an Olympic podium drew Rahi Sarnobat to her. One of the first things Dorjsuren worked on was on her mental conditioning, much needed after a two-year injury break.
The efforts paid off at the 2018 Asian Games. Rahi Sarnobat played a tense final with Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon, the tie going to two shoot-offs, the second of which the Indian shooter clinched by one point.
It made her the first female shooter from India to win an Asian Games gold and the moment was made more memorable by Anjali Bhagwat, another one of Sarnobat’s inspirations, calling the final. Her comeback was complete.
Sarnobat was conferred with the Arjuna Award in recognition of her efforts the same year.
The Indian shooter has continued her path to redemption since, with a gold at the ISSF World Cup in Munich in 2019, sealing her place for the Tokyo Olympics. It’s an event she is mentally preparing for the past three years.
“I think the Olympic Games are more about mental control than technical because every competitor is ready to perform,” she says. “It is just a matter of how you take it.”