'I am able to control my nerves better than the most'
Ace Indian rifleman Gagan Narang claims he can control his nerves better than anyone else but this mental toughness will be put to the "ultimate test" when he heads to London next year to realise his long-cherished dream of winning an Olympic medal.
By consistently winning medals at major international tournaments, including the World Cup, World Championships and the Asian Games, Narang has established himself as one of the best in the business, but an Olympic medal continues to elude him.
"I always believe that I am able to control my nerves better than the most. So, it will be the ultimate test of nerves next year," Narang, who is hoping to get "third time lucky" at the sporting extravaganza, said.
"I am more than eager to make up, in fact I am determined to go all the way whatever it takes. I have been unlucky twice, hope I get third time lucky," he said.
Image: Gagan Narang
'So winning at Olympic is heroic'
Not the one to rest on his laurels, Narang, instead of savouring his moment of glory after being honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, is only talking shooting. And he will continue to do so till he hits the bull's eye in London.
"Each athlete goes out with the ultimate ambition to win. Olympics is a showcase event. All of world's eyes are trained on the Games. It is the second most watched event after the Football World Cup. So winning at that stage is heroic. It is a different feeling altogether and cannot be explained in words," the modest 28-year-old said.
Image: Gagan Narang
'Right now I am undergoing rehab for my knee'
Narang has been a bit tied up with the 'Gun for Glory' shooting championship that commenced on Wednesday at the Shiv Chhatrapati Range in Balewadi, Pune.
As part of the initiative by the Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation, the first edition of the championship will conclude on August 9.
He has, however, not let anything hamper his preparations for London.
"Well it is still a year away and I am following the plan that has been charted by my coach. This year I shot two competitions as MQS (Minimum Qualification Score), I did well in the last World Cup. I got an idea on what to work on. Right now I am undergoing rehab for my knee. Once that is fine, I will start training. That would possibly be in the next few weeks," he said.
Image: Gagan Narang and Imran Hasan Khan
'The Govt and OGQ ensure my preparations go well'
After his exploits in recent years, Narang believes that the momentum will work in his favour in the mega event.
"Every championship one starts from scratch but what would work in my favour is the momentum."
Narang is pleased with the role of the government and the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), a non-profit organisation that supports the shooter, and believed they are the ones who are trying to help him in realising his long-cherished dream.
"The government has ensured that we get required amenities for our training and preparation for the Games. Then there is my sponsor, Olympic Gold Quest that is making every effort to see that I get it all. They are my 'go to' people. Whenever I need anything, they are there for me.
What has left the shooter relieved is the change in attitude of the people who matter towards Olympic sports.
Image: Gagan Narang
'Heartening to see the way everyone has qualified for Olys'
"Much has changed from then and now. Perceptions have changed about the sport. People and even the government know that this will bring in the most number of medals at the Games," the shooter who is currently recuperating from a knee injury, said.
"I have not been in the thick of things. In Sydney I shot MQS and my scores were good enough to get me a medal. Didn't do well in the following World Cup, missed one due to my knee troubles and did well in the last one in Germany despite knee not holding out. Right now I am undergoing rehab."
Eight shooters have already qualified for London 2012, but Narang is expecting the numbers to swell.
"There is still more chances to qualify at the Asian Shooting Championship. I think we can expect a few more qualifications. Last time around eight had qualified and that number we have got already. But what is heartening is the way everyone has qualified this year. Most have had a podium finish to notch up quota."
Image: Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra