The Indian shooting ecosystem continues to benefit from its former star shooters with many like Abhinav Bindra, Joydeep Karmakar and Gagan Narang focusing on the next generation.
Legendary shooter turned coach Jaspal Rana is no different. After excelling in his career as a shooter, Rana has now turned into a coach-cum-guide for some of India’s brightest talents.
The multiple Asian Games gold medallist has played a pivotal role in turning Tokyo-bound Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary into world-class shooters.
He also coaches at the Jaspal Rana Institute of Education and Technology in Dehradun. Jaspal, incidentally, won the Dronacharya award in 2020.
It was his father Narayan Singh Rana, a former Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) official, who introduced him to the sport. He was Jaspal’s first coach and gave him exposure to weapons -- pistols and rifles -- at the age of 10.
Jaspal, like many other shooters, started shooting with both the weapons but eventually settled for the pistol as he excelled with it.
"I started shooting when I was 10 and started competing at state and national level competitions when I was 11 or 12 year old. My father was in ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and was serving in SPG (Special Protection Group) which gave me exposure to weapons and shooting as a sport. I used to shoot both pistols and rifles equally well but the federation made the rule that one individual can shoot only one discipline as rifle or pistol, so had no choice therefore I chose pistol because I was giving better results in pistol events," Jaspal Rana told the Olympic Channel.
Two years after taking to shooting, at the age of 12, Jaspal made his national debut at the 31st National Shooting Championship held at Ahmedabad in 1988 and brought home a silver medal.
As he then continued to rise through the ranks, his illustrious shooting career saw plenty of ups and downs, but his gold medal haul (junior section) at the 1994 World Shooting Championships in Milan will always remain close to his heart.
The Arjuna awardee revealed that he was battling pain and was supposed to undergo surgery a day before the World Championships. He, however, was insistent in participating at the event and did so without even taking painkillers. And the result was remarkable as he bagged his first international medal, in the junior section, with a world record score in the 25m standard pistol event.
"As a shooter, all my achievements are memorable because it’s almost 16 years of winning and losing and lots of ups and downs but 1994 Milan World Championships when I won gold with world record (is special) because I was in hospital on the night before the competition as I had a boil on my knee and it was very bad. Doctors refused us to discharge me and my coach Sunny Thomas decided to run away from there because I wanted to shoot. We came back the next day and got the surgery done," Rana recalled the crisis.
However, it did not go to plan for Rana and his coach as his boil burst and his pain worsened. In fact, he was in a position where he could not even remove his jeans over his knee.
"So we did that (ran away) but that night itself the boil burst and I was in pain. I couldn’t sleep all night but did not take any painkillers as I was not clear about dope regulations. I could not even remove my jeans. So I was forced to cut them and make them shorts in order to shoot my event next morning.”
Despite not taking any painkillers, Jaspal managed to obliterate his competition and win the event with a world record score.
Nothing short of extraordinary, it has to be said.
"I just wanted to finish my event and go to the doctors take some painkillers and I did that right after shooting. Later, my coach came and told me that I won gold and after sometimes he came back and told me it’s a junior world record. I don’t even know how bad my pain was after that. It was an amazing feeling to see the country flag go high in another country and to return home with a gold medal."
He would follow that up with a gold medal at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima and was promptly honoured with the Arjuna Award in the same year, all at the tender age of 18!
Jaspal would go on to become one of the most well-known shooters from India, at a time the sport was slowly growing in popularity in the country. He would enjoy phenomenal success in the Asian Games, winning eight medals of which three golds and a silver would come in the 2006 event at Doha.
He has also won two Asian shooting championship medals apart from the junior world championship gold medal in 1994.