Pune: His father became a trailblazer of sorts when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore fired Double trap silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics to become India’s first individual Olympic medallist. Fourteen years down the line Manavaditya showed he was the right heir to carry the legacy RVS Rathore set up in shotgun shooting.
Indian shooters of yore were all shotgun marksmen and when Rathore struck that silver in Athens and wore the olive leaves crown, the sport was set on a different course with youngsters getting hitched on to it.
Since then India won three shooting medals in Olympics, including the first individual gold through Abhinav Bindra, but shotgun seemingly lost the way of podium as the seasoned marksmen drifted from serious shooting.
Manavaditya Singh Rathore brings in the fresh air into shotgun shooting and given the legacy he is following, the 19-year-old is destined for big things in years to come.
His father is Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, but that status doesn’t divide his attention from the task at hand.
Competing at Khelo India Youth Games, Manavaditya won the gold medal in trap shooting, somewhat easier version of shotgun shooting than what his father was accomplished at.
Double trap shooting has since been removed from the Olympic Games programme as not many women were taking to the discipline, which interfered with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) gender equality push.
Trap shooting hence remained choice discipline for shotgun shooting and Manavaditya was no different.
He was just five when his father won the Olympic silver and when this reporter rushed to Rathore’s official residence in Delhi Cantonment area that August 2004 evening, Manavaditya knew his father had achieved something that called for celebration.
Back in rhythm
On Saturday, just around the time when Manavaditya found his rhythm on Saturday, the 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Lakshya Sheoran lost his and finished in fourth place behind Bhowneesh Mendiratta of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh’s Shardul Vihan.
Lakshya Sheoran was in red-hot form in topping qualification but missed a series of birds in the second half of the final.
Manavaditya Rathore shot down only five of the first 10 targets in the high-pressure final but bounced back by shooting nine of the next 10 to be in a comfortable third spot with five shots left before the first of the six finalists would be eliminated.
“You have two options - to either give up or to fight,” he said of his comeback. “When you put in so much effort in training, your conscience doesn’t allow you to give up. You fight back to get what is right for you. I had the time to introspect on the mistakes I was making and eliminated them.”
He first ensured that he would not be out of the medal bracket and then asserted his domination with a consistent show.
“I had one or two misses in the middle, but I felt confident when I picked up the gun,” he said. “It was a good competition and since I am working to make it to the senior team, it was good preparation for the trials next month.
“I had missed two targets in the final stages of the second series in qualification today. I should have held myself till the last target. I will learn from the mistakes and I will ensure that I don’t repeat them,” he said.
Gradually moving up
Qualifying in third place with a total of 116 from 125 shots, he knew not to let the sub-par showing affect him in the final. In fact, plugging music in his ears - he said he was listening to Highway to Hell - he prepped himself well.
His strong mindset came into evidence when he stood back at his station and reflected on how things had panned out in the windy conditions.
The 19-year-old Manavaditya said he felt pressure in the final and, in fact, throughout the competition. “I think pressure is very important as it makes you stay alert. You just have to stop yourself from overthinking,” he said. He also said his pedigree also brought a hint of pressure and responsibility.
“My father and mother guide me, and I know I am in good hands,” he reflected. In the women’s it was Madhya Pradesh fisherman’s daughter, Manisha Keer, who claimed the trap gold. Manisha, a World Junior Championship silver medallist trained by Olympian Mansher Singh, ran out a 38-35 winner over Delhi’s Kirti Gupta.
Mehuli wins gold
Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh won the women’s Under-21 10m air rifle gold in a show of concentration and determination against jet lag. She came back from shooting in the Bundesliga in Germany only a couple of days ago and napped for half an hour in the gallery before the competition on Saturday.
The 18-year-old from Bengal asserted her class, shooting scores of 629.4 in the qualification and followed it up 252.1 that left her biggest challenger, the World Junior champion, Elavenil Valarivan, of Gujarat in her wake.
Mehuli was consistent throughout, the 103.0 in the fourth series of 10 shots being her lowest, in qualification. And in the final, each of her 24 shots fetched her at least 10.2 points.
It was a high-voltage battle through the day, neither shooter wanting to let her own standards drop. They were separated by only 0.6 points at the end of qualification.
They returned to the final and both the shooters were determined to walk away with the gold. Elavenil searched for stability and conceded some ground.
“I didn’t want to miss the Khelo India experience,” Mehuli said. “It is a good platform since only the top 16 shooters are selected. If the quality of competition is so high in the junior and youth levels, shooters will get an idea of what to expect in the senior ranks.”
Heena Gohei of Gujarat and Haryana’s Adarsh Singh won the other gold medals on offer as they respectively won women’s under-17 10m air rifle and men’s 25m rapid fire pistol.