Once the poster girl of Indian shooting, former World No.1 Heena Sidhu has not had the best of times in the last couple of years.
After competing in the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, Sidhu has missed out on a ticket to Tokyo. Not to be disheartened, the Arjuna Award-winning shooter is preparing to make a comeback at Paris 2024.
Sidhu, who was the first Indian pistol shooter to be ranked World No.1 by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in 2014, has seen a slip in her form ever since the Tokyo Olympics qualification got underway with the 2018 World Championships at Changwon in South Korea.
She has struggled to make her mark at events and subsequently has not made the cut to Tokyo. Now, she is focused on preparing herself for the 2024 edition of the Olympics.
The two-time Olympian has also looked at her life away from shooting as she took a break from the sport after the tough period.
"I don't have the Tokyo Olympics to look at since I didn't qualify so I can take it easy and get into the groove slowly. I am not concerned about the World Cup matches or the Nationals or any other tournament. So I would be focussing on the next Olympics (2024), or the World Championships or the Commonwealth and Asian Games (2022)," Heena told News18.com.
Sidhu also shed light on how the pandemic has affected the calendar of athletes, forcing them to give up on a break that usually follows the Olympics. Since the calendar is cramped and the World Cups and other marquee events set to be held soon after the Tokyo Olympics, shooters will have their task cut out, according to Sidhu.
"The thing is that the Covid-break came at a time when the Olympics was supposed to happen. Usually, the Olympic cycle will get over and then another one will begin so mentally also it's different (challenge). The preparation to start another Olympic cycle is very different. You are working on your basics, preparing for the next Olympics. By the time the Olympics in 2021 gets over, within a year the qualification for the next one will begin," Sidhu said.
With the Olympics in 2021, it feels like the shooters are not going to get a break that they usually would after the Olympics. We will almost immediately have trials and all for the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Usually, after the Olympics, you can take a 5-6 months break and then start the cycle for the next Olympics but that won't be the case this time.
It must be noted that Sidhu was the first Indian shooter to win an ISSF World Cup gold medal, when she did so back in 2013 in the 10m Air Pistol event.
With the Olympics pressure not on her head, Sidhu is slowly getting herself back into rhythm by training at a range in Pune.
"It's been difficult (getting back into the groove). A long break like this means the muscle memory is also gone, you're not fit, you've not really shot.”
At Rio 2016, Sidhu could only bag the 14th spot in the women's 10m Air Pistol and 12th spot in the women's 25m Pistol qualifying rounds.
At London 2012, she finished 12th in the qualification round of the women's 10m Air Pistol. The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist will be hopeful of a strong show at Paris 2024 before she calls time on an illustrious career.