New Delhi, July 18: Double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi put the new, hungry breed of Indian shooters in perspective at the Asian Games in Guangzhou two years ago. "We are winning medals because the concept of victory has changed. We are now focusing on the medal right from training. Earlier, we used to think of qualifying for the finals."
The 32-year-old from Ferozepur, who took to shooting as a child with the sport being a family tradition, not only exemplified the spirit in Guangzhou with the only shooting gold but followed it up with an early qualification for the London Olympics and moving to the top of the rankings last year.
Having had a great 2010, where he set a new mark and won gold at the World Cup finals before wearing the double trap crown at the Shotgun World Cup, a fine run at the CWG and the Asian Games, Sodhi repeated his World Cup finals feat the next year. Only five shooters have either shot world records or equalled them in the last 15 years. He is one of them.
What stands out is his sense of planning. An Arjuna award winner, Sodhi, who moved to double trap in 2001, resolutely made his way to the top after failing to make it to the 2008 Beijing Games - his request for a wild card was turned down although he was among the top three in the world and had equalled two world records at a World Cup in Belgrade.
In between, Sodhi even took the risk of losing weight after experts told him that he had to get fitter. He lost nothing less than 25kg and employed a physiotherapist for his general well-being.
And, to counter the wind and rain at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London, weather conditions which the Indians loathe, he said he had planned his training sessions under similar conditions in Italy under his coach Marcello Dradi.
But Sodhi hasn't hassled himself mentally. Although he hasn't made much headway in the recent World Cups - losing out on a berth in the final in Lonato, Italy - he is confident that if he can maintain a score of 145, he can finish on the podium.
Sky the limit for Gagan
Another shooter who is keen on maintaining the winning momentum is rifle shooter Gagan Narang.
Born in Chennai but raised in Hyderabad, the 29-year-old Narang, who has been in the sport since 1997, rose to fame with a gold in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games in his home town but realized his true worth in 2006 when he won four gold medals at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Narang's magical moment came in 2008 when he touched the perfect qualification score of 600/600 in 10m air rifle at the Bangkok World Cup final before setting a new world record of 703.5 with a superb 103.5 in the final round. It was special for him as his stupendous performance came on the same day (November 4) when Barack Obama, who Narang idolizes, won the election in the US.
But the Olympics the same year wasn't as memorable for Narang, with him missing a berth in the finals by a whisker. Narang had to settle for the 10th position even as Abhinav Bindra won the gold. That was when he declared that he would work for the gold medal in London.
Podium finishes at the World Cups in 2009 kept him in the race for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna but when it did not come to him, Narang was downcast and stayed away from the limelight for sometime. But then glory was his in 2010 at the Commonwealth Games. Having won the Padma Shri earlier, he won the Khel Ratna too.
A knee injury kept Narang away from all World Cups save one last year but he has come back ever since. His performances haven't been upto the mark but the Hyderabadi has it in him to raise the bar in London.
India's Best Bets
1. Ronjan Sodhi (Double Trap)
Current World Ranking: 10
Top Show: Gold medal at World Cup, Belgrade, 2008 - equalled both world record of 147 and final world record
Main Challengers: Walton Eller (USA), Joshua Richmond (USA), Hu Binyuan (China)
2. Gagan Narang (10m Air Rifle)
Current World Ranking: 14
Top Show: Gold at World Cup Final in Bangkok, 2008 - world record score of 703.5, including a perfect 600/600
Main Challengers: Zhu Qinan (China), Niccolo Campriani (Italy), Abhinav Bindra (India)