Heading into the Tokyo Olympics, India are all set to send their largest contingent to the Summer Games yet and it was none other than Indian shooter Anjum Moudgil who set the ball rolling.
Moudgil was the first to secure a quota for India in Tokyo, courtesy a silver medal finish in the 10m Air Rifle event at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Championships 2018 in Changwon, South Korea.
Understandably, the Chandigarh-born shooter considers it her best-ever performance in the international arena till date, superseding her 50m Rifle 3 Positions silver at the Commonwealth Games 2018.
“I was really happy with my Commonwealth Games silver. I set a CWG record and won a medal. But I think the world championships medal was my biggest achievement as far as the importance of medals go,” Anjum Moudgil told the Olympic Channel.
“Winning the Olympic quota was really something different. I really never thought about it much. That was a really good day,” she added.
No expectations from a 3 Positions shooter
Often the most relished victories come when least expected and Anjum Moudgil’s triumph in Changwon was exactly that.
Heading into the tournament, Moudgil, then just 24-years-old, was rated more as a 3 Positions specialist than for her prowess in 10m Air Rifle. After all, her previous big win in the international arena came in 3 Positions at the Commonwealth Games.
“I had three events at the world championships and the Air Rifle was the first. Everyone considered me a 3 Positions shooter so there was no pressure or expectations going into the Air Rifle match,” she recalls.
In fact, she had little expectations herself as her 10m Air Rifle training ahead of the event was far from ideal and she was making a lot of mistakes. But on the day, things fell into place.
“During the match, I thought to just focus on technique and process. I didn’t think much about the score. That worked well for me,” she noted.
Heartbeat rises as Olympic quota nears
Anjum Moudgil made it to the eight-woman final after being third in the qualifiers. Before she knew it, she was in the top five and an Olympic quota place was just one step away.
“It was then that my heartbeat rose. But it went well and I won the silver,” Moudgil recalled.
She shot a total of 248.4 to finish second behind South Korean Hana Im (251.1). Another home favourite Jung Eun-hea (228.0) clinched bronze followed by Indian shooter Apurvi Chandela (207.00) in fourth. Chandela won the last quota place on offer at the event.
With her medal, Anjum Moudgil also became the second Indian woman to finish on the world championships podium after Tejaswini Sawant, who bagged gold in 50m Rifle Prone in 2010.
A career landmark
The feat also added a new turn to Anjum Moudgil’s shooting career.
“After winning the quota, expectations of me in Air Rifle rose. So, I had to give much more time to Air Rifle than I was giving to it before the world championships. But both events are important to me still.”
Her added focus on Air Rifle has worked out well. In 2019, she rose to No. 2 in the ISSF world rankings for women’s 10m Air Rifle and currently occupies the fourth spot. Additionally, Moudgil is also the top-ranked Indian in the women’s 50M 3 Positions.
Almost certain to travel to Tokyo, Anjum Moudgil is looking ahead to making her maiden Olympics appearance and given her pedigree, a medal charge, and possibly a new greatest game, may very well be on the cards.
“I think once you win an Olympic quota, a lot changes mentally. You have to make it into the team, give your 100 per cent. So, surely, a lot of mental changes have happened since then,” the Indian shooter concluded.