In India, it is often seen that a child pursues a profession to fulfill an unrealized dream of the parents. Divyansh Singh Panwar's father wanted to be a shooter but due to financial constraints, he had to choose another path.
So at a very tender age, he introduced his son to a sport that he dreamt of pursuing. He meant serious business and hence the first time Divyansh held a gun, it was not a toy but a professional shooting rifle.
"When I was 11 or 12 years old and he just said 'let's go shooting Divyansh'. I thought he would take me to watch the shooting of a film happening in Jaipur, Salman Khan or Aishwarya Rai must be there.” - Divyansh Panwar told the Olympic Channel.
“But I found myself in the Jungpura Shooting range. Gunshots firing everywhere. I was a little confused. And the next day he got me a gun, an Indian made gun, maybe just Rs. 6000. I had never even picked up a toy gun before.”
Interestingly, Divyansh instantly took a liking for the sport. Within a few days, he would start aiming for the neighbours’ window panes and inevitably his parents were riddled with complaints about his misdeeds.
"To stop me from doing my father drew targets on the rooftop for me to aim at. I was always into shooting and I never tried any other sport."
Soon, he started participating in competitive tournaments and during the junior nationals in 2015, he met with his current coach Deepak Kumar Dubey.
He was doing well in the juniors but was handed a reality check during the 2019 World Cup in New Delhi where he could not finish within the top five. He understood that to do well at the biggest stages he needs to pull up his socks and work on his mentality.
"To succeed in the seniors you need a different kind of motivation,” said Panwar, who is currently ranked World No 1 in the 10m air rifle event.
“First I did the sport just to enjoy myself. I never looked at the scoreboard. When I focussed and put in the effort consciously, the results were good. But I was not being able to motivate myself to do that repeatedly and succeed at the biggest stages. Now I have sessions with my psychologist. It is important to control your mind and concentrate. Things have changed and are much better now."
Indeed, things have taken a turn for the better. At just 18, he has six gold, two silver and a bronze across various Asian Championships and World Cups. However, he opines that the H&M Cup in Munich was the toughest battleground.
"It is an open competition. You get really high scores over there. Anyone can participate,” he explained. “There were three-four Olympians and a couple of medal holders as well. That was really tough. Yet I performed well and got a medal. So that was really satisfying."
He is determined to put up an impressive show in Tokyo and is leaving no stone unturned to finish on the podium.
"I stay away from all kinds of video games. Everything has stopped,” said Panwar. In earlier interviews, his father had said that he introduced Divyansh to shooting so he would spend less time playing PubG.
“I have got a dog and I spend my time with him. When I return from practice it is very relaxing to spend time with him. I also have a guitar. I can't play that well but still, I try. Apart from that, there is yoga and meditation. I love music. I listen to a lot of songs. That is relaxing as well."
His day starts at 5:30 in the morning with yoga and is usually lights off at 10 pm. In between, he spends around six hours a day in the range and follows a strict diet.
"No sugar at all. Outside food is not allowed generally. Very rarely it happens."
In spite of his rigorous schedule, he does not count himself as one who is 'all work and no play'. He shares a strong bond with his roommate co-shooter Vivek Singh Bhaduria and loves travelling.
"I try to enjoy life as well. I will go to Shimla for my rehab and then roam around a bit. I have been to Madhya Pradesh. The thing is I always give my 100 per cent to whatever I am doing. When I am in the lane I stay focussed and when I am with my family I just spend quality time with them. I will not go to the range while staying with my family. Nothing in between."
However, Panwar wants to further improve his focus before the Olympics. He is confident with his technique but believes that working on his concentration will make him a more complete athlete.
"I need to get mentally stronger with an unerring focus. It is like 70 per cent of our game is mental. Only 30 per cent is physical. With the Olympics getting delayed I just got more time to prepare."
The target is locked in and with each passing day, his pursuit for perfection grows more intense. His next assignment is the ISSF Shooting World Cup which is set to be held in New Delhi from March 18. He had been in a good rhythm in the national trials and a strong show in the World Cup will be a morale booster before the games in July.
He has come to terms with the disciplined lifestyle, the strict diet, and every little compromise he has been making for the past few years. It is all or nothing for the teenage to-be-Olympian.
"I have visualised myself standing in the lane, playing a match, winning in the finals and everything. It keeps on playing in my head.
"If you are dreaming about the Olympics then you have to sacrifice. Abhi Zinda hoon Olympics ke liye. (Right now, I am living for the Olympics)."
What was once his father's dream, now defines his life.