Khelo India Youth Games: Teenage shooters Srinjoy Datta and Abhinav Shaw set Dr. Karni Singh range alightJune 9, 2022
In a precision sport like shooting, having a handle on one’s nerves means everything, and even more so if one is vying for the top prize. The gold medal match is a straight shootout of 15 rounds (worth two points apiece) and the first to win 8 prevails. The Khelo India Youth Games in New Delhi on Wednesday saw a nervy and thrilling encounter between two of the country’s most prodigious talents.
Srinjoy Datta prevailed 16-14 over fellow West Bengal shooter Abhinav Shaw in the final of the 10m air rifle category. After falling to a 0-4 deficit, Abhinav rallied with some brilliant marksmanship. The two shooters even tied scores on two occasions (awarding each of them one point), including one near-perfect shot which notched up a score of 10.8.
Ultimately, with the encounter evenly poised at 14-14 setting up match point for both, it was Abhinav who blinked first landing Srinjoy the gold medal. Barring the first and last shot, Abhinav hit all 10s, but was trumped by Srinjoy who scored 10.4 or better in eight of his last nine.
“Dealing with pressure is a part of this sport,” Srinjoy told The Indian Express after his win. “If you feel too much pressure, your heartbeat starts going too fast and it affects your balance and vision.”
Srinjoy says he has always been attracted to sports that require more focus and concentration, thus explaining his foray into shooting. With time, he says he has learnt how to deal with the pressure by detaching himself from the result. “I give a 100 percent, no matter what. When things are easy, you can’t lose focus, and when things are hard, you can’t lose hope,” he said.
Both teenagers have plenty of experience dealing with pressure though, having represented India on the global stage. After a promising career in the juniors, 19-year-old Srinjoy was picked for the senior Indian team for the ISSF World Cup in Cairo earlier this year, while Abhinav, five years his junior, won the silver medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany this year.
“It (dealing with pressure) is difficult. But I have been trying to think only about the next shot every time I play a final,” Abhinav told this The Indian Express.
In Suhl, Abhinav had a similarly disappointing result. After reaching the gold medal match alongside compatriot Rurankksh Patil, he came up short in another tight encounter losing 13-17. According to his father Rupesh, despite losing both “by a whisker,” he is learning to keep his cool in crunch moments.
Sacrifices for excellence
Abhinav was, quite literally, born to be a shooter. Rupesh, himself a former shooter at pre-Nationals stage, named him after 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra. Since then, he has been enrolled in swimming and karate classes to build himself up to be a shooter one day.
His father, a tuition teacher in Asansol, invested both financially and emotionally in his progress, while his mother does her best to travel with the teenager and make sure he’s ready to give his best at events. The sacrifices have paid off, with Abhinav becoming the youngest state and national rifle champion, a two-time Khelo India medallist, and representing India in Suhl.
Srinjoy’s family has made similar sacrifices. Sankar, a former commercial artist, travels with his son and ensures the best possible training regime. His mother Susmita invests as much as she can from her earnings as a teacher at the Bharati Balika Vidyalaya in Serampore to provide for him the best, including a practice range at home.
Sankar says they are currently saving to buy Srinjoy a state-of-the-art practice rifle worth Rs 6.5 lakh, which will improve his performances even more, he says. “Once we figure out a way for him to shoot 10.9 seven shots in a row, the medals will start rolling in,” he adds.