Self-belief drove Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to Olympic glory

The Indian shooter was determined to more than just participate in the Games.

Growing up in a country that had never won an Olympic medal in shooting, silver medallist at Athens 2004 Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore believes that it’s his self-belief that drove him to the podium at the birthplace of the modern Games.

“Things were very different then. Way back in 2004, India was not winning many medals (in shooting at the Olympics),” Rathore shared speaking on The Medal of Glory, a show by Sony TV, the official broadcaster of the Games in India.

“In fact, the environment was such that there was always a certain degree of negativity around when it came to the Olympics and India.

"But I had a sense of determination that if I am going to go to the Olympics and I am going to win a medal. I will not just go there to participate.”

Over the years one thing that often hurt the Indian shooters was the scale at which the Olympics were being competed. While the shooters were physically and technically on top of their game, the pressure of shooting at the Olympics and the competition would often get the better of them. 

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, however, said that he paid special attention to being mentally prepared for the Games in Athens. 

“Each day in the build-up to the 2004 Olympics was full of very hard training,” said Rathore, who won his silver in double trap.

“I also worked in a way that my first Olympics should not overawe me. I felt that when I reach there I should feel at home, be familiar with the surroundings. I had taken a lot of videos and pictures of the Olympic shooting range. 

“I used to see that every day before I used to go to sleep. I visualised myself standing in the arena and shooting there, in front of all the cameras so that I do not get overawed when I reach there.”

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore deals with Olympic pressure

But despite his best preparations, the pressure of shooting at the Games would get to the Indian ace as he would find himself reeling at the 13th spot after the opening two rounds in the qualification event.

However, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore would dig deep into his reserves to shoot a score of 46 in the third to eke into the final six as the fifth-best shooter in the competition.

“All through the build-up to the Olympics, I had been number one or number three in the world. I had proven to myself in the run-up to the Olympics that I was among the best in the world,” he said recollecting the day he landed India’s first Olympic medal in shooting.

“I told myself that there is no reason for me to be out of the top six and lying 13th is unacceptable. I shot a brilliant third round and I jumped to the fifth spot.”

In the final, though Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore produced another fine show, he would fall well short of Ahmed Al Maktoum of UAE who won the gold with an Olympic record.

“Al Maktoum and I used to be neck to neck, but on that day I have to say that he was way ahead. He was a clear winner in that final,” he admitted.

At Athens 2004, Rathore went on to become the first individual silver medallist for India at the Olympics, surpassing the bronze efforts of KD Jadhav, Leander Paes and Karnam Malleswari before him.

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