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'I could see nothing else but the target'

Harish Kotian | August 18, 2004 00:47 IST
Last Updated: August 18, 2004 01:24 IST

Ace Indian shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore became a national hero when he finished second  in the men's double-trap shooting event at the 28th Olympic Games in Athens on Tuesday.

Rajyavardhan Singh RathoreThe 34 year-old armyman's score of 179 (135 in qualifying and 44 in the final round) gave him a silver medal, India first individual silver in Olympic history.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates took the gold medal, scoring 144 in the qualifying round and 45 out of a possible 50 in the final round, while China's Wang Zheng won the bronze.

Soon after making history, Rathore spoke to on the telephone from Athens. Excerpts:

Congratulations! How did it feel standing on the podium and receiving the medal from Indian Olympic Association secretary general Randhir Singh, himself a champion shooter?

It felt absolutely great. We are just following in the footsteps of the other great sportsmen that our country has produced. It certainly feels good to win a medal for the country, and that makes it even more good because the country feels so proud of it.

You had draped the country's flag around you at the presentation. What was going through your mind then?

At that time it was a sense of relief that I was able to accomplish something for the country. And the flag, I wanted something close to a symbol which represents the country; so the flag was the best thing, and I just wanted to wrap it all around myself.

Did it dawn on you that you had won India's first ever individual Olympic silver medal?

No, not really; I wasn't very sure about that. But that doesn't give me satisfaction that I am the first one or something like that. I think there are many, many more medallists and I hope in future we will produce many more medal-winners.

What do you attribute your success to?

I think there has been a lot of hard work and in the right direction. And for the right direction, there were people to give able guidance. There were lots and lots of people who helped me — helped with funds to go out and train, helped me with their tips whenever possible, helped me with various advices that one needed for matters of life. It is all a culmination of everything, a culmination of God's wish and lots of people who helped me do this.

Would you like to name some people responsible for your success?

It's nice to know that I have a long list of people who have been very, very positive. I don't even want to leave out people who I have been with for just one minute, but in that one minute they have shown a very positive attitude and helped me. These people are there in the [sports] ministry, these people are there in the Sports Authority, these people are there in the [shooting] federation. Then there are my friends, people who call me and give me support when I am down, and say: 'Don't worry, you can do it'. There are lots of people and I am so happy that there are lots of positive people around.

With one round to go and just one point ahead, you needed to get both your shots right. What were your thoughts then? Were you under any kind of pressure?

I had put all pressures aside and I was absolutely focused on the target. I could see nothing else but the target.

Your impressions on Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, the gold medallist?

Al-Maktoum had stolen the day. He has been a fantastic shooter today. Everyone has his day and today was his day; he was absolutely unbeatable. I told him that for him it was like playing a game with us; he just laughed it off. We all know that everyone has his day. There are some times when somebody else is shooting well and others are struggling. But I am happy I could struggle and come up, because there was a time when I thought I had lost it.

Al-Maktoum had it very easy, but, of course, he must have put in a lot of hard work, but, as of date, I had to put in the hard work.

Baljit Singh Sethi, secretary general of the National Rifle Association of India, said that you were feeling confident yesterday. Even your wife said you sounded relaxed when you spoke to her yesterday. What was your general preparation in the last few days?

There is a mix of everything. There has to be a balance. If you just think about the event, then you will get burned out, and if you don't think about it at all, and you are just enjoying yourself, then you tend to lose focus. There has to be a healthy mix of both these things. As a result, yesterday I was a mix of both these. Whenever I felt that I was getting a little too anxious, I would relax, crack a joke, talk to somebody, and generally make the environment a little lighter for myself. But whenever I thought that I needed to focus, I would sit back, close my eyes, and think of the target, of how I would do, how my emotions would be, what is my game plan for the match, and everything. It is a mix of both.

Randhir Singh represented the country for 31 years in shooting. He also won a gold medal in the 1978 Asian Games? Did he pass on any useful tips?

He is a very busy man and he is very occupied with his various duties here with the International Olympic Committee and the other Olympic organisations like the Asian and the international associations. So, one hardly gets time to meet him. Of course, I would love to sit and talk to him, maybe after this. Once we finish off with this, we will sit down and have dinner together, talk about and learn something from him.

Did you call home and speak to your family? How are they feeling?

I haven't been able to speak to my wife, but I spoke to my father and he is very happy. I am feeling so good that I have been able to make him proud of me.

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