Apurvi Chandela: From late aimer to game changer
On August 11, 2008, a spectacled shooter by the name of Abhinav Bindra created history as he became India’s first and so far only athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for an individual sport.
That achievement at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall was celebrated throughout neighbouring nation India, with the gold medal sparking a 15-year-old Apurvi Chandela’s dream to one day become a professional shooter herself and rub shoulders with the nation’s elites.
Chandela was born in the Pink City of India - Jaipur - to Kuldeep Singh Chandela, a hotelier of a prominent establishment in the city, and homemaker Bindu Rathore.
Although she took a keen interest in sports from a young age, becoming a professional shooter was never part of the plan in her formative years. She was more inclined towards her academics and wanted to become a sports journalist.
However, those plans went out the window after Bindra’s historic gold in 2008 got the youngster hooked onto shooting; and she reportedly scored a perfect 10 in one of her first tries with a rifle at a local shooting range.
Watching her innate talent for the sport, her family was incredibly supportive towards this new vocation, as her father gifted her a rifle while her uncle built a shooting range in their backyard for her to practise.
It’s why the shooter considers her family as her biggest emotional support even today, arranging tickets for them for all her tournaments, even the International ones.
Success in the circuit
After practicing hard in the backyard for a few months, Chandela entered a state-level tournament in Jaipur and immediately achieved success, winning a bronze medal. Along with her dedication to the sport, the young shooter also paid heed to her education, and moved to Delhi to pursue her bachelor’s degree in sociology.
While in Delhi, she was selected to take part in the 2012 National Shooting Championships, and was quick to stamp her authority on the tournament, winning a gold medal for the 10m Air Rifle event.
That win further bolstered Chandela’s desire to continue on the goal of being a professional shooter, as she began training for several hours each day under the mentorship of young marksman Rakesh Manpat in 2013, while also balancing her studies.
The efforts paid off as Chandela was supremely dominant at the 2014 Intershoot Championships in the Netherlands, winning four medals. She followed that up with a sensational performance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she managed to win the gold despite nursing a ligament injury suffered just a few weeks prior to the commencement of the tournament.
Journey to the top rank
After the resounding success at the Commonwealth Games, Chandela had well and truly announced herself at the international stage and there was no turning back after that. She won the bronze at the Changwon World Cup a year later which got her an Olympic quota for the 2016 Rio Games.
Chandela didn’t quite make the impact she would have desired at Rio 2016, finishing 34th after the qualification round.
Following that setback in Rio, the then 23-year-old suffered a slight blip in form as she struggled to find her mark in subsequent competitions, failing to make it to the finals of any ISSF World Cup tournaments for the next two years, with her best finish in that interim being in 10th place at Gabala.
Chadela’s fortunes though took a turn for the good at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she displayed some steely concentration and accuracy to win the bronze medal, missing out on the gold by just 0.6 points.
A few months later at the Asian Games, Chandela’s success continued as she won another bronze, this time in the mixed team 10m Air Rifle event, sharing the acclaim with partner Ravi Kumar.
The shooter took that form and consistency to the ISSF World Championships held in September 2018, as she finished fourth and became one of the first Indian athletes to qualify for Tokyo 2020, alongside compatriot Anjum Moudgil.
The turn of the year got even better for the Jaipur-born shooter, as she bagged gold at the ISSF World Cup on home soil in New Delhi and followed that up with a fourth place finish in Beijing, which bumped her up to the first in the world for her discipline.
Chandela further augmented her grip on the top rank with a gold at the Munich World Cup in May.
She took to the sport of rifle shooting only in her college days after being inspired by Bindra’s gold medal, but Apurvi Chandela today finds herself as one of the top athletes in the world. With Tokyo 2020 quickly approaching now, Chandela would be aiming to emulate her role model’s Olympic achievement.