'I want to give something back to the country'
Waiting for a flight at the Delhi airport, India's top shooter Gagan Narang was asked by a fellow passenger where he could send his son for training in shooting. Narang didn't know of any specialised training centre that he could recommend.
That's when the idea of setting up a shooting academy occurred to him. And that's how Gun for Glory was launched around a fortnight ago at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
The last few years have been good for Indian shooters, and interest in the sport is growing. And Narang is the focus of this interest. Ranked number one in Asia, he won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year, which increased his total medals' tally in 2010 to 16.
"I want to give something back to the country. Youngsters look up to me, and I want to give them a platform to become ace shooters," says the 27-year-old from Hyderabad.
Image: Gagan Narang (centre) with with Ronak Pandit (left) and Pawan Singh
Coaching programmes to cater to all kinds of shooters
Narang has come up the hard way and knows how difficult it is to become a shooter in India.
So his academy will have all the facilities required to train champion shooters. Incidentally, there are not many specialised shooting academies in India. There are shooting ranges which have coaching centres but not a full-fledged academy as such.
Set in the Balewadi complex shooting range, the academy will have coaching programmes to cater to all kinds of shooters. These range from a 15-day to a year's residential training in rifle, pistol and shotgun; there will also be distance learning programmes.
Not just that, Narang's academy will have specialised coaching programmes for coaches as well.
Narang knows that parents don't encourage children to take up sport out of fear they would lose out academically.
"We intend to tie up with educational institutes so that our trainees can concentrate on academics as well," he says.
The academy will have a sports injury management team, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, masseurs, besides gyms, swimming pools and other facilities.
Image: Samresh Jung (right), Heena Sidhu (centre) and Annu Raj Singh shoot at targets to reveal the logo
Narang will rope in three foreign coaches
Narang knows that he won't be able to dedicate all his time to the academy and so is handing over the reins to two people he trusts.
Pawan Singh, assistant coach of the Indian team, will look after the administration, while Indian shooter Ronak Pandit will be consulting director.
Besides, Narang will rope in three foreign coaches to give trainees at his academy the much-needed exposure.
"I will try to dedicate as much time as I can imparting tips and knowledge," he says.
Lakshya, the Pune-based sports NGO, is a partner in Narang's academy and will adopt a few talented youngsters and foot their expenses at the academy.
"Most shooters go abroad for proper training and I want that to change," says Narang.
Image: Gagan Narang
Olympic medal will be the icing on the cake for Gagan
The name Gun for Glory stands for Narang's desire to see India as a shooting superpower.
The academy will start taking in students from April. Narang wants to open branches in other parts of the country as well, and is looking for corporate support.
So far, no company has come forward but he hopes that the performance of Indian shooters will help change their outlook. For individuals and corporates willing to make donations, this is the email to contact the academy email@example.com
The ace shooter also hopes to set up franchises in a few Indian cities, provided interested parties came forward.
"This is a unique concept whereby you can have own franchise or branch of Gun for Glory in your city. We will help you by providing coaching to the young shooters, while we will also give training to their coaches. Our foreign coaches will also make regular contributions which would definitely help nurture young and upcoming shooters," he told Rediff.com.
On the personal front, Narang has already qualified for the London Olympics and is looking to set his Olympic record straight, though he feels that shooters shouldn't look at an Olympic medal as the Holy Grail.
"We have done well in international tournaments and that is a matter of immense pride for the country," he says.
The Olympic medal will be the icing on the cake.
As of now, all Narang's energies are focused on getting the academy up and running in the next few months.