For the first time since 2016 when Meghana Sajjanar won shooting’s unique combined men’s and women’s Lakshya Cup Invitational, there was a woman champion at Navi Mumbai’s Karnala shooting range.
Some of the best names – from both genders – in 10m air rifle were in contention on Christmas Day, including men’s world champion Rudranksh Patil. Finally, it was Orissa’s Shriyanka Sadangi who took gold – dominating from start to finish – with national champ Yukthi Rajendra second after an all-girls final shoot-off. Vidit Jain picked bronze.
Air rifle ace Anjali Bhagwat and pistol shooter Heena Sindhu have previously won the Champion of Champions, the most elite ISSF version of a combined event. But the Lakshya Cup might be the only available platform for such a combined event in India, shot in the Olympic format – 60 elimination shots before knockout duel finals. Shriyanka, 27, who has a medal in 50m 3 Positions at the Worlds, thought it was swell to win, but not a biggie in leaving all the men in her wake.
“Women have been shooting high scores in the last few years across the world. These matches against men are exciting. I view it simply as accepting the challenge that you have to shoot better scores to win. Combined competition is a great concept,” Shriyanka said.
A series score of 106 is the new 104, as scores are routinely hitting the roof internationally. On a peach of a day for her, Shriyanka shot a series of 106.1 and three others of 105 in qualification, topping the Race to Eight with 631.4. Her elimination round would begin with a wobble, but once she settled down, she was back to shooting the big 10s and shrugging off anyone snapping at her heels. She would finally pip Yukthi 16-12, six years after she had finished runner-up. Good form, like Sunday’s, must feel different.
“When you are shooting well, you feel synchronised in the body. Hand-eye coordination is good. There’s good flow to the shots,” she explained. ISSF events drum up din, so a DJ in the house is one of sport shooting’s most jarring features. “When shooting in the lane, the noise doesn’t matter much. ISSF plays some songs in the background so much that you don’t want to hear them outside ever!” she quips.
All in the mind
Consistency is what shooters aim for, Shriyanka adds, without perpetually glancing at the cards. “We just focus on technique, and when you are shooting well, you know the right time to take a break. You don’t over-think the shot sequence. The only thing under your control is the single shot from the barrel,” she elaborates. “104 used to be a good card earlier. Now you just focus on increasing the lower net (fewer to none 9s and smaller 10s),” she said.
Champion shooters don’t stay hung up on horror shots. “We don’t react to shots. It’s routine. It’s your own shot. Though a good shot is about a feeling, you can’t attach emotion – happy, sad, anger, irritation – to every shot. You focus on the next one,” Shriyanka says.
Women’s air rifle is one of India’s most competitive events – also one in which an Olympic medal is deeply coveted, and just making the India team can be almighty tough. “Yes, it’s tough to get into the team, everyone’s going for it. I accept the challenge,” she says spiritedly.
When Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won India’s first shooting medal in 2004, a catch-them-young Mission Olympic competition was started for army kids. Shriyanka, whose father played Ranji Trophy for Services and Orissa, took the plunge, and went for her first international in 2009. She shoots the 3P with equal enthusiasm, though straddling both can be tough.
“No, but I think they are complementary. My Standing in 3P is very good and I’ve shot 100 series in very windy conditions on the Cairo range. So, when I shot 100 at the Trivandrum Nationals, it wasn’t a surprise. Both events help each other,” she claims.
For a sport that shuts off all noise and peripheral sights, maybe beating four men on adjacent lanes is no big deal and won’t even register. For six years now, Shriyanka has had her eyes on the Lakshya trophy: that a bunch of men faded off as she raced away with almost a two-point margin is just another happy Christmas Day.