Suma Shirur remembers Yash Vardhan as an under-confident boy when she first saw at the 10m air rifle range over a year back when he had just broken into the India junior squad.
"The first time I saw him, I could see that he had everything needed to be a good shooter, but he was always so doubtful about everything. For some shooters, the first time when you make it, everything around can be daunting: the sounds, the pressure of expectations,” she told Firstpost after the teenager combined with Shreya Agarwal to win India a silver medal in the 10m air rifle mixed team event on Wednesday at the ISSF Junior Shooting World Cup in Suhl. The other Indian pair, Mehuli Ghosh and Hriday Hazarika, finished with the bronze medal.
India, which has brought a considerable contingent of 54 shooters to the event, are currently in top position in the medal standings with 21 medals, which includes eight golds. Vardhan had finished seventh a day earlier in the men’s 10m air rifle event.
Vardhan first made it to the junior squad last year, but it was only two months ago that he broke into the junior team for the Asian Airgun Championships in Taiwan, where he won gold in the 10m air rifle event and the 10m air rifle mixed team event.
“He’s very young, just 15. Last year he was in the Indian squad and did some good work. He showed he has fine technique,” said Shirur, who is India’s High-Performance Director for the junior rifle shooters.
Shirur recalls her bold prediction about Vardhan not long after seeing him shoot. “He has such fine technique that last year itself I had told him that if he can have confidence in himself he can make it to the big league. And that’s one of the things he has worked on over the last few months. His confidence has gone up. Over time he’s grown into a more confident shooter. His personality has opened up.”
With his confidence opening up, doors to the senior team have also opened. At next month’s Rio de Janeiro World Cup, he will be part of the senior air rifle team.
The Rajasthan shooter gave a good measure of himself in Wednesday’s 10m air rifle mixed team final against Iran’s Zolfagharian Amirsiyavash and Armina Sadeghian. But the Indian duo trailed almost from the start of the final, prompting Shirur to call a time-out with the scores at 5-9 in favour of the Iranians.
“Both Yash and Shreya are extremely fine shooters. But today a few factors led to them losing. First, it’s not easy competing in the finals. You have to go to a new range (the finals range) where you have barely any time to get used to the venue, and then you have to deal with the pressure of your own expectations. I’m sure for him it’s been a fantastic learning experience.
“What’s important in a final like this is to be able to handle any and every eventuality that you can come across. All he needs is a little bit of experience. He has a lot of talent and obviously he has time on his side,” she said.
Talking about Shreya, she added: “Shreya is one of the best shooters we have. At last year’s World Championships, she was the one who won a couple of medals for India. Today was a one-off day for her where she could not settle down in the final.”
The writer is in Germany as part of the Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Program.
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