Competing in her last World Cup as a junior shooter, Elavenil Valarivan almost did not make it to the finals on Monday. Her score of 627.5 in qualifying just about sneaked her into the eight-woman finals of the 10m air rifle event at the ISSF Junior Shooting World Cup, being held at Suhl.
Valarivan left the Suhl shooting range with a gold medal – with silver being grabbed by compatriot Mehuli Ghosh and bronze falling into the hands of France’s Oceanne Marianne Muller. But more importantly, she left the shooting range having made a statement of intent that she was ready for the hard grind of senior competition.
“Elavenil has shown that she’s in a class of her own,” Suma Shirur, the high-performance coach for India’s junior rifle shooting team, told Firstpost. “She’s finally ready (for senior competitions). Winning a second consecutive gold in a Junior World Cup in itself proves her mettle. She’s ready.”
While 19-year-old Valarivan is a product of Olympic medallist Gagan Narang’s Gun for Glory academy, Shirur has seen the prodigious youngster from close quarters as part of the national team set-up over many months now.
“Elavenil has been at the peak of her shooting since at least January last year. For her, things haven’t happened overnight. It’s been a consistent year and a half where she’s maintained that form! Her form and consistency are due to her technical finesse,” said Shirur before adding, “She started shooting 630s long before the seniors started shooting it last year. She had always done it at junior World Cups. It took her a while in the senior team, but last year she started shooting 630-plus in the World Cup,” pointed out Shirur.
Drama by decimal points
On Monday, for a long stretch in the finals, Elavenil did not look dominant. In fact, after 10 shots, she was in the fifth spot while Mehuli was first in the standings.
The next 10 shots saw fortunes sway wildly, advantages being wiped out and leadership changing hands almost with every shot: Elavenil found herself rising to second after 13 shots, usurping top spot after 14, sliding back into second after 15, climbing to first after 16, falling to second after 17, staggering further into fourth by the 18th shot before clinging on to second spot with her 19th shot, where the gap between her and top-placed Muller was just 0.8. Mehuli was tied third, 0.4 off second spot, but one bad shot away from being eliminated without a medal. It was drama by decimal points.
Elavenil’s next five shots – all deep 10s – were good enough for gold.
For Elavenil, the focus now shifts solely to the uber-competitive senior women’s 10m air rifle field where the likes of World Cup Final silver medallist Apurvi Chandela and World Championships silver medallist Anjum Moudgil – both of whom have won Tokyo Olympics quota places for India – already hold sway.
Elavenil has been part of three senior World Cups so far, agonisingly finishing fourth at the Munich World Cup this year besides a 17th place finish at Beijing and a 30th spot at New Delhi. She was 14th at the 2018 Asian Games.
“Yes, the competition (in women’s 10m air rifle event) is tough. But I’m happy that even as juniors people are making it to the senior team. That’s a huge improvement as far as the junior squad is concerned. The good thing for Elavenil is that she has had this year as an overlap, where she was shooting in the Junior World Cups besides competing in the senior events as well (with Apurvi and Anjum). This has helped her get a very clear understanding of the dynamics of the senior team,” said Shirur.
With Tokyo Olympics just over a year away, the window of opportunity for Elavenil to make the cut exists, but Anjum and Apurvi, by courtesy of having won quotas in the first place, will have an advantage, said Shirur.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) adopted a new Olympic selection policy in September 2018 wherein scores from 2018 Asian Games, the ISSF World Championships and the World Cups held in 2019 and 2020 will be considered. Points will also be allotted for shooters who got the nation quota places as well.
“Anyone can make it (to Tokyo) because all of the girls are so strong and they’re doing so well. Of course, the ones who have already won quota places have a good advantage due to the points they get for winning quotas. But apart from that these girls are really making it very difficult for those who won quotas. What is good is that because of this level of competition, I’m sure that the shooters who finally make it to the team for Tokyo 2020 will be really tough shooters because they would have gone through the whole grind of emerging successfully from the intensely competitive environment within the country itself,” said Shirur.
On being asked if Elavanil needed to change anything in the coming months, Shirur said, “Not really! Once you’re shooting 630-plus, you don’t need to change anything. Now for her, the challenge becomes a mental one.”
Updated Date: Jul 17, 2019 10:43:48 IST