Abhishek Verma interview: The engineer-cum-lawyer who went from hobby shooting to winning gold medals
Abhishek Verma was studying law when he took up shooting as a hobby but it soon became his profession as he went onto win bronze medal at Asian Games and two World Cup gold medals.
Abhishek Verma won two shooting World Cup medals in 10m air pistol event in 2019.
He also won a 2020 Tok Olympics quota with his first gold medal win at a World Cup in Beijing.
The Haryana shooter had won bronze for India in his international debut in Asian Games 2018.
Abhishek Verma – the “hobby” shooter - took up the sport only a few years back but these last few years have been nothing short of dream for him. A journey which began from Hisar’s shooting range has taken him to two World Cup gold medals in 10m air pistol event in 2019 including booking a 2020 Tokyo Olympics berth. In fact, he also accounted for a bronze medal on his international debut at the age of 29 at 2018 Asian Games.
The shooting life of the Haryana lad has been in an extremely fast lane but when you talk to him, he’s calm, loves to indulge in conversations and impresses you with his mental clarity. In a way, it must be this tranquil outlook and exemplary lucidity that makes him the quality shooter that he is.
His story doesn’t have him shooting at a target in his backyard or preparing for years. It was an ordinary start for Abhishek but that’s what makes his journey extraordinary. Abhishek holds a BTech in computer science and was pursuing a degree in law when he took up shooting for “fun”. It has been widely reported that he took up the sport in 2015, but to us he revealed it was 2014 when he first ventured into the shooting range.
“It was in 2014 that I started shooting,” said Abhishek to Firstpost. “The beginning was with rifle and then for a while I tried out my hands on pistol shooting but had to stop in middle due to my semester exams. I got back to it in 2015 but it was still a hobby. It was only in 2017 that I started to take it seriously.”
And it was a chance conversation that got Abhishek into shooting in the first place.
“I always wanted to try out shooting but we didn’t have the platform. Then in 2014 while I was in a gym, I overheard two people talking about a new shooting range that was coming up in Hisar. I took the address from them and that changed everything.”
An impressive Abhishek was soon competing at state, national levels and All-India University Games. In 2017, he completed his law course but focus was now primarily on shooting. The same year he enrolled at Eklavya Shooting Academy in Gurgaon to take bigger steps and then Asiad 2018 happened.
The journey, so far, has been highly successful but the learning never stops. Mental element plays a huge role in shooting. Often the best are separated from the rest on the basis of their mental strategy and toughness.
It’s always impossible to detach yourself from your surrounding when you are in a shooting competition. When competitors fire multiple rounds and scores keep fluctuating. It’s easier to lose focus and start thinking about the outcome or the negative. Abhishek had a similar experience in Asian Games final.
“I was in the second position and the announcement of the standings were constantly being made. It’s very difficult at that time to keep yourself calm but it’s also very important to do so. I thought everything is going fine and let my guard down, I became relaxed and that backfired. My next two shots were poor and I dropped down to the third position.
“I suffered again during the Asian Air Championship in Chinese Taipei as I missed the gold medal by 0.2 points due to a poor shot. It was a learning for me.”
It was time for the shooter to forge a strong mentality in order to shut out the distractions. Poor shots during the closing rounds were costing him big time. He along with his coach created competition like environment during training to be prepared for the world stages.
“I started preparing for such situations in my training with shooting while announcements being made continously to distract me and disturb.”
The result was for everyone to see. At Beijing World Cup in April this year, Abhishek got better of 2008 Olympic champion Pang Wei and former world record holder in 10m air pistol event, Oleh Omelchuck to win gold.
“When I went to Beijing, the plan was to maintain 100 percent focus through out the duration of shooting. My aim was to avoid any loose shots and to make a strong start, so that we don’t face any issue towards the end. I was at the top of standing in the final from beginning till end. The lead in between shots helps to stay calm and focused.”
He also went on to grab his second gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro World Cup in August where the prodigy Saurabh Chaudhary won bronze.
Two medals in men’s 10m air pistol!
— SAIMedia (@Media_SAI) August 30, 2019
Mental strength and stability is one thing that Abhishek always comes back to while talking about shooting. In a recent interview also, he spoke about how Indian shooters will need a “different level of mental stability” to win medals at Olympics. But what is this zone? Can it be described in words?
Abhishek tried to explain: “There’s certain amount of pressure when you participate in nationals but it multiplies in international tournament. When you are involved in final round of a competition and have the lead, you start thinking about the medal but it’s important to detach yourself from the result. It’s extremely vital in that moment to just think about the shooting, the technique. You need to shut out the world.”
For the 30-year-old shooter, yoga, meditation and training are the routes to reach the zone. His trick is to keep his mind occupied throughout the day. There’s very little time for him to dedicate to his personal life and the son of a sitting district and sessions judge is relieved that his mother has now put his marriage plans on hold after the World Cup medals.
Abhishek describes himself as a person who loves to set tough personal targets but incredibly he’s also been breaking new grounds with his achievements.
“For 2018, the target was to get into the into the national squad but I even went on to win a medal for the nation. This year, I had a lot targets and I am happy that I have been able to over achieve it. Now, I have placed new goals for myself and I am sweating it out in training to achieve them. But I will only speak about the goals after I achieve them.”
It’s okay Abhishek, we won’t ask about those goals, we will just wait for the good news.
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