Olympic journey ranks high for Suma Shirur
She may not have bagged the ultimate prize, but for Suma Shirur her journey to the sport's grandest stage alone was a memorable one.
After years of toil, the former Indian rifle shooter from Karnataka had qualified for the 2004 Olympics in style.
She had created history by shooting a perfect score in the qualification rounds of the 2004 Asian Shooting Championships, where she went onto win the gold medal and earned a berth at the Athens Games.
“I qualified for the Olympics with a world record score. 400 out of 400. That was the best period of my life,” Suma Shirur told Firstpost.
“The journey to the Olympics was very long and it took me ten years to reach that level. The whole journey made me really hungry and desperate to give a good performance,” she added.
Abhinav Bindra deserved the gold
Four years later, she witnessed history being made after Abhinav Bindra became the country's first individual gold medallist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Having observed Abhinav Bindra closely for years, Suma Shirur felt that it was a reward for his commitment to the sport.
“He did everything there was… He invented new ways to make himself better,” Suma Shirur explained.
“His concentration, perseverance, willingness to go all out to gain perfection is something that you don't see in shooters.
“When he won the gold medal, in my mind, I said to myself, thank God he won it. He deserved to get it,” she added.
Bindra brings India's first individual gold
Bindra brings India's first individual goldAbhinav Bindra registers India's first-ever individual Olympic Games gold medal with victory in the 10m air rifle event in Beijing 2008.
Keeping focus key at Tokyo
India has taken giant strides in shooting since then and the nation has high hopes from their shooting contingent at the Tokyo Games, where they have already won 15 quotas.
But Suma Shirur believes that being under the spotlight at the Olympics can be unsettling.
“In the last two years, they have been through a lot of pressure, in getting quota places, staying in top rankings,” the High-Performance Specialist Coach of the Junior Indian rifle shooting team pointed out.
“That itself has been a huge pressure for more shooters and they have been able to stand up to the pressure. I believe they have trained themselves to handle that pressure,” she pointed out.
“The one thing that separates the Olympics from all other competitions is the kind of media attention it gets - the attention of the entire world is fixated on one day.
“To find concentration amid that... would be challenging. Just find that concentration on that day, everything will take care of itself,” the 2003 Arjuna awardee advised the shooters.