Feature | Shooting

Soldier, Olympian, Politician: 9 lesser known facts about Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

As Olympic Silver Medallist and decorated shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore turns 50, here are some intriguing facts about his life and career.

By Olympic Channel Writer ·

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was the winner of the silver medal in double trap shooting in Athens 2004, India’s first-ever Olympic Games individual silver.

His proud place in India's Olympic history is assured, but what else do you know about one of the country's finest ever shooters?

Here are some known - and lesser-known - facts about Rathore.

Rathore turned professional when he was 28

It’s a statement that will not hold true for most other Olympic disciplines, but Rathore only took up professional shooting in 1998, when he was 28.

Nicknamed ‘Chilly’, Rathore played multiple sports as a child, including cricket, volleyball, basketball and even represented his school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, in a national meet in the discus throw event.

The ‘Captain’ who fought in the Kargil War

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s military background is well known. Rathore was commissioned into the army in 1990 as part of the 9th Grenadiers (Mewar) Regiment and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1992, going on to be Major by 2000 and eventually a Colonel in 2009.

During the Kargil war, Rathore was stationed in Jammu and Kashmir. His regiment’s operations there won them the Army Chief Citation and the Governor of J&K Citation.

Olympic Medallist turned Minister

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore ventured into politics after retiring from professional shooting. He would become a Member of Parliament in 2014 before taking charge of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry and later, the Sports Ministry.

The latter stint saw him join the likes of Nawal El Moutawakel, John Boland, Pietro Mennea and many other Olympic medallists who went on to become ministers.

One of the biggest initiatives for sports in India, Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), was launched with much fanfare and attention during his tenure. Rathore had a stint of under two years, and the KIYG just wound up their third edition.

Rathore’s teenager son is a junior shooting champion

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s son, Manavaditya has followed in his father’s footsteps and has shown signs of becoming a future champion. Manavaditya Singh Rathore had won the Junior National Trap title as a 14-year-old and in 2019, won gold in the U-21 trap event at the Khelo India Youth Games.

He followed it up with three golds in the National Shotgun Championships and is eyeing a place in the senior Indian team.

Interestingly, Rathore has opted to not officially coach his son as he feels he cannot be strict enough - but obviously plays the role of a constant mentor.

His Wife (and fellow strategist) could not watch his medal winning moment in 2004

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore holds a Masters degree in Strategic Studies, but it was his wife who played a part in strategy planning when most required. Rathore has credited his wife, Dr. Gayatri Rathore, for her input when the couple would talk about the competition after their children had slept.

The shooter prepared extensively in and prior to Athens 2004, limiting his media interactions and calculating every move on and off the range.

Unfortunately though, Dr. Gayatri Rathore could not watch her husband shoot down silver live due to a cable operators’ strike.

His secrets to wellness - wrestler’s Omelette and Yoga

Rathore has had the ammunition to evolve from athlete to champion to statesman over the past two decades.

It would be his time in the military that would have inculcated his habits around fitness, but many years after retirement, still Rathore prefers to sweat it out and be in shape.

He starts his day by doing yoga and has stated that he used to eat a 10-egg omelette while shooting professionally.

His discipline did not waver even during a hectic campaigning schedule for the general elections in India, as he broke down his workout into smaller parts.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore also revealed that he often works out with the current sports minister, Kiren Rijiju and feels the latter is fitter than him!

At one point in 2014, he owned 11 guns

Rathore’s mandatory public declaration of assets prior to the 2014 general elections in India revealed that he owned 11 guns, which included nine 0.12 bore guns, one of them worth Rs. 1.48 lacs. Most of them were awarded to him as prizes.

Apart from those, he also owns an LVT-322 pistol worth Rs. 20,000 and a rifle, also won as a prize.

Much more than Olympic silver

Rathore rose to prominence with his Olympic Games medal in 2004, but he had set a Commonwealth Games record during his gold run at the 2002 Manchester Games. He hit 192 out of 200 targets in the Men’s Doubles Trap singles event, a milestone that has not been breached in any subsequent Games.

Rathore also won gold in the double trap pairs event in 2002 along with Moraad Ali Khan. He defended his individual gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne but could only win silver in the pairs.

He has won 25 international medals in all, including two golds at the World Shooting Championships and was ranked second in the world after the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Rathore lost his favourite gun in 2006

Days after clinching gold at the 2006 ISSF World Cup in Cairo and securing qualification for the 2008 Olympics, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was in for an unpleasant surprise. He lost his prized Perazzi Italian gun while travelling back to India.

The airline on which he was flying misplaced his baggage, which included the gun that had helped him win the gold medal.It happened days after a gun belonging to Rathore’s fellow trap shooter, Ronjan Birendeep Sodhi also went missing on a flight.