The sport of shooting has grown leaps and bounds in India in the past decade, with several of the nation’s shooters achieving success on the global stage.
While there are several factors that have helped the advancement of India’s shooters, 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Gagan Narang can certainly take his share of the credit, having founded the ‘Guns for Glory’ academy.
From his high performance programme the likes of Shreya Agarwal and Elavenil Valarivan have emerged, the latter winning a gold medal at the ISSF Rio World Cup earlier this year.
But in training the stars of tomorrow, Narang believes that his academy helped him better his own shooting skills and realise his Olympic dream in 2012.
Starting from scratch
The 2010 Commonwealth Games were a watershed moment for Indian shooting, as well as for Gagan Narang personally. India won a whopping 30 medals in New Delhi, including a gold medal in the men’s 10m Air Rifle event, which was won by none other than Narang himself.
“I would say the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India heralded in major transition. During the 2010 Games, (shooting) ranges were built and the government had invested in building a formidable team as well, and that investment yielded the best results of the Indian shooting team in any Olympics. There were good foreign coaches, plenty of ammunition, and I can proudly say that I am a product of the system,” revealed Gagan Narang in an interview with the Olympic Channel.
“There was always an urge to give back to the system that made me. So, I put in all the prize money that I had earned from the 2010 CWG towards making this foundation,” Narang said as he continued detailing how his academy came into being.
Guns for Glory is a non-profit shooting academy started by Narang with the intention of training the next generation of Indian shooters. The academy has centres in several major Indian cities like Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore, providing top-notch facilities, equipment and training for the nation’s next generation of shooters.
“Guns for Glory is all about helping athletes at the grassroots level and exposing them to excellence early on. Our aim is to provide the best facilities for youth shooters and help them leap to the next level at the earliest. All facilities that we provide for the youngsters are on par with what the Indian shooting team has access to. Shooting is an expensive sport and we have subsidised it. We also try to provide scholarships so that the parents are not burdened,” added Narang.
Learning and unlearning
That experience helped the veteran Indian shooter deal differently with the pressure of the Olympics, for which he made amends four years later at the 2012 London Games.
“There was a lot of pressure from expectations. I would not say pressure is bad; in my case, it helped me perform. But the pressure on me was actually building from the time I lost out on shooting at the finals in Beijing on countback. I had to go back to the drawing board and re-chart my Olympic journey. At every stage, I recalibrated my skills,” admitted Narang.
Apart from that, Narang said that his academy work helped him improve himself as a professional shooter. “In 2011, a year before the Games, when I opened Guns For Glory, people thought that I was wasting time in the academy. In reality, it helped me shoot better because I was training some of the kids and shooting with them. Some of it was learning and some, unlearning. I would imagine, in the end, I coped with the pressure better,” said the rifle shooter.
At the 2012 Games, Narang was in a position similar to the one four years prior, with China’s Wang Tao hot on his heels in the final. But the Indian coped better with the pressure this time around, shooting a near-perfect 10.7 in the final round to clinch a cherished Olympic medal.
The rifle shooter went on to win a silver and a bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, adding further gloss to his illustrious career. His academy has also helped churn out several next-gen stars of Indian shooting.
Now at 36, Narang is targeting a comeback to the sport to try and make the cut for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The marksman has not been on the ISSF World Cup circuit since 2017 - but as he has proven before, the path to success does not always have to be an orthdox one.