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ISSF World Championships: Ankur Mittal trains his guns on success in trap shooting after signing off double trap career on a high

A gold medal in the world championship would be ranked as the most coveted landmarks in a career of a shooter, second only to a triumph in Olympics. But for Ankur Mittal, the victory at Changwon in South Korea, is tinged with sadness as the former world number one will be saying goodbye to his double trap career after this competition. With the event being scrapped from the next Olympics, most of the specialist double trap shooters are quitting the sport to move into trap. “It is hugely satisfying to end my double trap career on a high. I could not have asked for a better finish,’’ says Ankur Mittal, in an exclusive interview to Firstpost.

 ISSF World Championships: Ankur Mittal trains his guns on success in trap shooting after signing off double trap career on a high

File image of Ankur Mittal. AFP

The 25-year-old from Sonepat shot 140 out of 150 to be tied with two others and head into the shoot off. In a battle of nerves, the Indian shot four targets to capture the gold, one shot more than the silver medallist Yiyang Tang from China. In the team event, India, featuring Ankur, Shardul Vihan and Mohammad Asab bagged a bronze.

Despite the enormity of the achievements, the celebrations were muted with Ankur treating his teammates to a quite dinner. “The road ahead for me will be tough to get adjusted to trap shooting. Therefore I am a bit nervous. I am so used to competing in double trap for last years. There is plenty to learn and unlearn. I have already ordered a new gun. I will be taking a couple of weeks off before getting back to the range,’’ admits Mittal.

While both trap and double trap include hitting clay pigeons, the double trap, as the name suggests, involves taking aim at two targets which are released simultaneously into the air. In trap, only one target is involved but it requires more anticipation as the targets fly at fifteen different angles. In double trap, there are only three different trajectory options in which the clay pigeons are flung. According to experts, the two sports might look similar but the skill sets involved are different. “The hand-eye coordination is completely different in trap and double trap. Just like badminton and tennis are both racquet sports but require different skill sets, it is the same for shooters taking part in trap and double trap,’’ says Smit Singh, a skeet shooter. Many of the double trap shooters have moved to skeet shooting, another shotgun discipline using clay pigeons and shotgun.

“I had started my shooting career as a trap shooter in junior competitions in both domestic and international events so I am hoping to make the adjustments smoothly,’’ says Mittal. As a youngster he was initiated to the sports by his father Ashok, a familiar face in shooting circles. Askok competed in double trap and so did his elder brother Ajay. “I had plenty of guidance at home which made me give up trap and move to double trap,’’explains Mittal. Despite being an expensive pursuit, double trap event received a big boost in India when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver in the Olympics in 2004. After Rathore, Ronjon Sodhi was the flagbearer of the country in double trap wining the Asian Games in 2010 and also became the World No 1 in the discipline.

After failing to make the cut for the Rio Olympics, Mittal relished a purple patch in 2017 when he was crowned the World No 1 in double trap, thanks to his gold medal in World Cup in Mexico and a silver in New Delhi World Cup. A silver in the World Shotgun Championship in Moscow made the shooting world take notice of the rising talent from India.

Mittal is currently pursuing a MBA course from Manav Rachna University though he has no intention of making a move to the corporate world, preferring to sweat it out in the shooting range than the air-conditioned board room. “Even if it takes time, I am going to be patient and perfect my technique to become a top trap shooter,’’ he adds.

The ongoing World Championships in Changwon is the last event of the year where the quota places for the Olympic Games in Tokyo are being awarded. It means Mittal will have tough battle at hand next year to firstly break into the national trap team and then look to seal a berth for Olympics. Some of the top trap shooters in the country who are looking to seal the Olympic berths include veteran Manavjit Singh, Asian Games silver medallist Lakshya Sheoran, Zoravar Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai. Double trap silver medallist at the Asian Games, 15-year-old Shardul Vihan is also training his guns on breaking into the trap team.

Mittal is banking on his calm nerveless streak that saw him win the world championship gold on Saturday to not get carried away by the pressures and make a smooth transition to a new discipline.

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Updated Date: Sep 09, 2018 16:27:26 IST