Road to Rio: Skeet shooter Mairaj Ahmad Khan finally gets a shot at Olympics - Firstpost
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Road to Rio: Skeet shooter Mairaj Ahmad Khan finally gets a shot at Olympics


Name: Mairaj Ahmad Khan
Age: 40
Discipline (sport): Shooting
Category: Skeet Men
Qualification: Mairaj qualified for the Olympics by finishing in sixth place at the ISSF Shotgun World Cup held in Lonato, Italy

Strengths: The ace shooter has over 15 years of experience to rely on and be a competitor to look out for in this shotgun category.
Past Olympic performance: Debut

Past record (best performances): - Mairaj won the silver medal in the 2016 World Cup held at Rio de Janeiro
- He clinched the gold medal at the Team Skeet event in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games
- He struck gold in 2011 Asian Shotgun Championship team event as well
- Mairaj has also won the national championship three times

By contributing to 4 of the 26 medals that India has won in the Summer Games so far, shooting has always been an important Olympic sport for the country. Many shooters like Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Vijay Kumar have become household names. But amidst these varying disciplines in the sport, skeet shooting hasn’t seen much luck so far. Many consider it the weakest discipline for Indian shooting. That’s where Mairaj Ahmad Khan comes into the picture.

File photo of Mairaj Ahmed Khan. Photo: Twitter

File photo of Mairaj Ahmed Khan. Photo: Twitter

Mairaj finally paved for India in skeet shooting by clinching a spot at the Rio Olympics. He is currently ranked ninth in the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) world rankings. With 15 years of experience to bank on, the 40-year- old athlete from Uttar Pradesh still refuses to call himself a ‘veteran’. This hesitation stems due to his humbling defeat during his first international tournament.

He didn’t just lose at the Shotgun World Championship 15 years ago during his debut, he ended up coming last in the tournament. But Mairaj didn’t let that come in his way during the Olympic qualifiers. “I remember flopping 15 years ago very clearly. So I kept telling myself that I was a better shooter now. Stronger, faster, experienced,” Mairaj told The Indian Express. Hence it was almost poetic when Mairaj ended up qualifying in Italy at the Trap Concaverde stadium, the same place that he had witnessed his first defeat.

His qualification wasn't coincidence and now puts him as a strong contender for making Olympic history for India this year; he also won the silver medal in the 2016 World Cup held at Rio de Janeiro recently. He is in peak condition and had a really consistent season this year with shot scores of 121 and 120 earlier in the World Cups. “(Scoring) 120’s like a century in cricket,” said the shooter while explaining the relevance of breaking this score barrier.

Mairaj also has another Italian connection besides the Concaverde victory. He is now being trained by Italian shooter and Olympic champion Ennio Falco. The world-class coach has helped boost Mairaj’s confidence and improved his technical touch. “Falco brought in belief, sharpened techniques and told us how to prepare for a competition,” Mairaj told The Indian Express.

With all his achievements and the promise of this Olympics, it is clear that Mairaj has become the face of skeet shooting in India.

"I am also immensely happy and proud of Mairaj, as all the hardships he has had to undergo all these years and the dedication and hard work that he has put in into his sport despite, is finally bearing fruit," President of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Raninder Singh, a shotgun shooter himself, added while speaking to NDTV. Mairaj is also confident that his hard work will end up seeing results. He wants to go beyond his numerous national accolades and bring glory to India. “I’ve always been Mairaj Ahmed Khan, the national champion. Now I’ll be Mairaj Ahmed Khan, the Olympian,” he said.

With inputs from agencies 

First Published On : Jul 23, 2016 11:21 IST

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