Reluctant pistol shooter Yuvika tops big guns for National Games gold

Pistol shooter Yuvika Tomar has no qualms in admitting that she did not harbour big dreams or wasn’t very passionate about the sport when she took it up. The then 15-year-old’s primary target was to just bag a national-level medal and secure a government job.

Choosing shooting over other sports was a no-brainer for Yuvika who comes from Johri village in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, a hotbed of shooting. The nearest range was just a 10-minute walk from her place and had some high-profile visitors she could look up to for inspiration. World Championship gold medallist Saurabh Chaudhary was one of them.

But when medals started coming thick and fast, Yuvika realised that she was cut out for the big league. The 21-year-old’s latest addition to the medal cabinet was a gold in the 10m air pistol event at the National Games in Gujarat on Sunday.

“I did not have any targets, honestly. But then I progressed well and started training seriously,” she said after finishing on top in a line-up that included stars like Heena Sidhu and Manu Bhaker.

Yuvika did not seem nervous at all while rubbing shoulders with the best in the country. Only once during her event did she look a bit perplexed. “I just forgot to get my screwdriver so I was looking for my friend,” she said.

National Games Yuvika (centre) did not seem nervous at all while rubbing shoulders with the best in the country. (Credit: SAI)

Yuvika has emerged as one of the brightest hopes in pistol shooting and all eyes would be on her as she plies her trade at the ISSF World Championship in Cairo to be held later this month. She is a woman of few words and prefers her performances to do the talking.

Yuvika, who was part of the women’s team that set a junior world record score (1721-47x) at the Asian Shooting Championship 2019 in Doha, doesn’t let any pressure on or off the range get to her. But four years back, an unfortunate incident made her quit the sport for almost six months.

“My father got paralysed suddenly. He had no history of ailments or any trouble, but it happened. I was extremely heartbroken and there was a lot of work at home and in the fields so I took a break,” she said.

But her father, who got her first pistol after borrowing money, wasn’t going to let her daughter give up her sport so easily. “He encouraged me a lot to return to training. Now my brother works in the fields,” said Yuvika.

She doesn’t like to set long-term targets and when asked about her expectations at the upcoming Worlds, she had a simple answer: “I’ll just try to do well.”

Garba flavour to shooting

The Navratri festivities are in full swing in the country, especially in Gujarat. Usually at shooting events, a set playlist is blasted out on speakers during the events but organisers at the National Games felt adding a dhol player to the mix would spice up things a little more.

And gauging from the engagement of the audience, they were not spot on. Dhol player Rahul had never seen a shooting range in his life until Sunday. “For me, shooting meant film shooting. I was told I need to play for a sports event but I didn’t expect it. But after watching the sport all day, I have learnt a bit about how it works,” he says.

Music is an integral part of shooting and the world body says that “during medal matches, music should be played.”

Milan James, a technical official, didn’t expect a dhol player at the venue. “At competitions, mostly recorded music is played. On rare occasions, we have live musicians,” James said.

During the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions shooting event, James was handed the special task of guiding the dhol player. “I just had to make sure he stopped during announcements and breaks and resumes as soon as the competitions started. And also ensure he didn’t go overboard and play too loud,” says James.

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