Shahzar Rizvi is startled by the number of missed calls on his mobile as he groggily gets up from the bed. Having just returned from South Korea, he’s catching up on his sleep. Another call and this time he picks it up only to be told that he has just become the new World No 1 in 10m air pistol.
Soon, there is a melee for sound bytes from television crews, invites for felicitations and hundreds of congratulatory messages on social media. For a 23-year-old, the new-found stardom can be bedazzling, but the youngster refuses to be sucked into it. “The World No 1 is a not a big achievement. I know if I continue to give results, the rankings will take care of itself. The important thing is to shoot well and not get carried away,’’ said Shahzar, downplaying his latest achievement.
A gold medal in his maiden World Cup appearance helped the shooting fraternity to take notice of him and then the silver medal in a tougher field, a couple of months later, ensured he will be one of the top Indian shooters to watch out for as the race for the Olympics slots hots up. “I am still not happy with the scores I am getting in competitions. I am scoring in the region of 585-588 in practice but I am not able to replicate them in the tournaments,’’ points out Shahzar who has scored 579 and 582 in his last two World Cup qualification rounds.
The newly-crowned World No 1 will now be travelling to Germany for a short training stint which will be followed by yet another World Cup in Munich. A visit to Germany will allow him and his coach Ronak Pandit to not only fine-tune his technique, but also work on his equipment. To ensure that the team is not overburdened with competitions and there is sufficient time for training, the Indian shooting team is giving the World Cup in Fort Benning in USA a miss.
With a crammed international calendar and a busy training regimen, Shahzar hardly gets time to spend time with his parents and his wife who are based in Mawana Khurd, a small village in Meerut. “The only gift for myself for attaining the World No 1 ranking is a visit to my village for a day and having biriyani at home,’’ reveals Shahzar.
It was in his village that Shahzar developed his fascination to hit the bulls-eye trying his hand at air guns and slings. “The village also helped me to become an international shooter because of the constant rebuke from many of the elders and some relatives. They taunted me for wasting my father’s money by pursuing a rich man’s sport. And there were some of my friends who dismissed my childhood dreams of becoming a national champion as mere fantasy. I was angry but I did not show it. I took a pledge to prove everyone wrong,’’ reminisces Shahzar.
“I had initially wanted to take up double trap because I had two cousins — Rayyan and Sahul who were pursuing the sport. But because it was a costlier affair, I decided to opt for pistol shooting. My father sent me at Amar Pratap Singh’s academy in Meerut. And within few months, I had attained scores to qualify for the nationals,’’ says Shahzar.
While the prodigious talent of Shahzar impressed Amar Pratap, his father Shamsad was not convinced if he could afford his son’s career in the sport. He did not even have money to buy him a pistol. Thankfully, his employer loaned him Rs 2 lakhs to buy Shahzar his first pistol, imported from Austria.
“While I was shooting great scores in training, I was somehow faltering in tournaments. My parents were disappointed and they used to repeatedly ask me if I was lying to them about my practice scores. My parents game me an ultimatum, if I did not perform for a year, I had to give up the sport,’’ said Shahzar.
But the shooter did not let himself down and started creating waves on the domestic circuit. As a 19-year-old, he bagged a silver in the nationals in 2014 which was followed by a gold in 2015 where he edged out Olympic medallist Vijay Kumar to second place. A gold in the Asian Air Gun Championship in Tehran in 2016 last year ahead of Jitu Rai was his maiden international success. The fairytale continued as he took the top spot in the Commonwealth Championship in Brisbane last year which was followed by his gold medal in the World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I was a bit hesitant to work with Shahzar initially because I was not sure if our wavelengths would match. But soon I found out that he had all the qualities of a champion shooter. He was very clear about the goals he had in mind and he was very strong mentally,’’ said Ronak who has been coaching him since last year. The silver medal in the World Cup in South Korea and his current ranking have made the international shooting fraternity take notice of Shahzar.
When Shahzar burst onto the international scene, he had no burden of expectations but the tag of World No 1 will have its own pressures. Hopefully, the nerveless youngster can shrug it off and continue to shine in the crucial tournaments ahead.
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Updated Date: May 04, 2018 18:38:41 IST