Feature

Psychological boost: Sanjeev Rajput targets best Olympic performance after National trials success 

Rajput failed to qualify for the final of the men's 50m rifle prone event at Beijing 2008 and London 2012

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

At 40, Sanjeev Rajput is determined to put his best foot forward at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Indian shooter came in cold for the National shooting trials in January, after missing out competition for nearly a year and still managed to match his national record. Rajput shot a score of 1181 - an Indian record - in the qualification round before bagging the top spot in the men's 50m rifle 3p in the first selection trials at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.

"Coming back from the coronavirus situation after a year and giving a high performance was the real concern - psychologically and practically," Sanjeev Rajput told the Olympic Channel. "After crossing that hurdle, my performance (in the National shooting trials) will boost the confidence."

The Tokyo Games will be Rajput's third Olympics. He had missed out on making the final round in his previous two Olympic outings -- Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Rajput secured a spot for the Tokyo Games when he bagged a silver medal at the ISSF World Cup in Rio in 2019.

Sanjeev Rajput

After a gap of over 10 days, following the national trials, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist resumed training. He is ironing out the flaws that had crept into his game due to the long break.

"I started practice a few days back," he said. "Getting back in shape and hope to get back in good condition soon performance-wise. I have also been working on building up my endurance. The basic mistakes which happened, like aiming errors, have been resolved."

Rajput said he will be leaning on experience and the knowledge that he has won some big prizes in the sport in the last four years to remain upbeat about his chances at the Tokyo Games.

"I have been performing well in the past four years, I have won all the major events. I won the domestic, selection trials, have won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (and silver at the 2018 Asian Games). I have done everything to be a part of the Tokyo team and I hope I do well and performing well at Tokyo Olympics," he added.

Rajput, who first took to the sport in 2001, has closely seen the shooting ecosystem grow in the country.

"The face of shooting has totally changed. There is a lot of professionalism, a number of shooters taking part in events, has increased," Rajput said."There was a national championship during that time in Bangalore and NRAI announced that they had a maximum number of entries which was 400. And today even in the district level we get more entries."

"The youngsters representing India today are matured and very professional," he added. "They have been guided well. They just need to stay focused and have peace of mind. Let the outside world not disturb their inner peace."

The Indian shooter attributes his success in the sport, and in life, to his time spent as a sailor in the Indian Navy.

"My time in the Navy was a golden period not just because I started shooting but I learnt the way of life.I was not recruited in Navy due to shooting, I went as a normal sailor. After spending three years, I got an opportunity to shoot."