On Wednesday, Esha shot in her signature fashion, starting slowly and coming from behind to win a silver medal. Perhaps, a team gold in the event had settled the nerves. Or it could be the familiar whistles and shouts she was hearing from the stands.
“Pakar ke rakhna, chhorna nahi (don’t lose your grip on the match),” a man repeatedly shouted from the stands. Olympic medallist and IOA vice-president Gagan Narang looked back and smiled. “That’s Esha’s father, Sachin,” Narang told the media persons sitting with him.
Esha Singh shoots gold and silver on Asian Games debut
Esha’s response to that after the match accompanied a smile. “It’s not the first time he did that,” she said.
Manu Bhaker was also in the medal match along with Esha, but finished fifth and was seen being consoled by the Indian team’s staff at the end of the final. She had topped the qualification round with a score of 590 and had high hopes with herself. But she didn’t get the start she was looking for, after losing focus initially when shells from the magazine of the shooter on the adjacent firing point were popping out towards her.
Manu Bhaker: Eyeing Olympic medal after Asian Games gold
But Esha stayed in the zone, like her father had always advised her.
“Just before the match also I was trying to help her stay focused, telling her to go shot by shot, don’t look at the medal, that’s where pressure comes in…She was finding it a little difficult to sleep in the night for the past 2-3 days,” said Sachin, who himself is a sports enthusiast and also a rally driver, having participated in national championship.
In fact, Esha’s parents were on a group call on Tuesday night, trying to make their daughter relax ahead of the match.
“It’s different for everyone. Some feel pressure on the lane, some have it in their subconscious mind that is always commanding you to do certain things and you are trying to block it, saying ‘no, no, I won’t do it’,” said Sachin, who said coming back into medal contention from the bottom half comes naturally to the 18-year-old Esha.
“If you see her matches, even if you go back 3-4 years, she has got that fighting spirit. She always comes from behind, very few matches she leads (from the start). She has got that habit to come back up from 4th, 5th, 6th positions. She has that kind of temperament.”
Esha admitted that it happens with her quite often, laughing about it after the match when told what her father felt about that trend.
“I don’t aim to start from the bottom. Unfortunately some of my starts have been like that. I have this kind of fighting energy. I don’t give up until the last shot,” she said.
Esha was at number four at the end of sixth series, and then hit all five targets in the 7th, four in the 8th and five again in the 9th to prove her father right.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SPORT
Esha was always free to pick the sport she wanted to; and after getting disinterested in tennis and badminton, a chance encounter made shooting her choice.
“One of my and Gagan’s close friends plays shotgun. He called me one day and I took Esha along. The sound of the shots fired invited her interest. She chose to try her hand in the sport and never looked back,” said Sachin.
An interesting insight into Esha’s mindset shared by her father was that she always wants to earn things herself. If she wants an iPhone, for example, she would set a target for herself, achieve it and then buy it on her own.
“I just have my head on my process and what I have to do,” said Esha. “I just keep my head in the present, what I have to do stage-wise.” She said that in the context of the match, but it reflected her father’s thoughts about her attitude of ‘earn what you desire’.
Still in her teens, Esha has the clarity of an adult about what she expects from herself and what can’t be left behind in pursuit of that. For instance, the importance of academics even for a successful sportsperson.
“I believe nobody should (leave academics completely). It’s also something that takes your mind off (the sport). You cannot do just one thing,” she said.
Next on Esha’s roster at the Asian Games is the 10m air pistol event, so any celebrations will have to wait.
“It will take her out of the zone. I don’t want to disturb her,” said Esha’s father.