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Asian Games: Rajasthan Royal Anant Jeet Singh Naruka challenges Abdullah Al Rashidi’s decades-long skeet reign before settling for silver


A puff of pink evaporates in the humid air. The boom of the shotgun echoes at the imposing Fuchun range in the backdrop. A smattering of applause from the stands. And a silent fist-pump from the man who’d dared to challenge the dominance of shooting royalty in the most royal of shooting events.

Abdullah Al Rashidi has won every skeet gold medal at the Asian Games since 2010. He’d won three World Championships even before his closest challenger in Wednesday’s Asian Games final was even born. And has finished on the Olympic podium three times.

But Anant Jeet Singh Naruka isn’t one to care about reputations. For 42 shots, the man who had survived the whole day merely on a banana and a protein bar matched the Kuwaiti legend shot for shot, not missing a single clay target, and putting Al Rashidi under incredible pressure, something that few have done over the decades.

The Indian slipped up on the 43rd shot and what looked like a possible gold eventually became a silver. But in the wild celebrations that followed in the Kuwaiti camp after the final, Al Rashidi, 60, made his way to Naruka, 35 years his junior, to give him a big warm hug.

“To go toe-to-toe with him is a dream. These are the kind of days that remind you why you picked up the gun,” Naruka says, after becoming the first Indian to win a skeet medal at the Asian Games.

The youngster from Rajasthan shot a qualification score of 121 to make the six-shooter final in fourth spot. There, Naruka missed only two shots to seal a silver medal for India.

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“The weather here was hot and humid just like in Jaipur and it helped me. In skeet, one has to just keep calm at different stations and make the adjustments sensing the wind as well as the target. The experience of competing in such weather at my home range also benefited me,” he tells The Indian Express.

In his younger days, Naruka would often accompany his father Dalpat Singh Naruka to shooting events in nearby villages in the erstwhile royal seat of Uniara in Tonk district. With his grandfather Rajendra Singh into shooting, the initiation to the big bore gun came quickly.

“My father would often take me to shooting events across the state as well as show me the guns of the family at home. When I was big enough, I started training in the backyard range with the semi-automatic big bore gun of my grandfather. I always wanted to do something for which my family could be proud of me. To win the first medal in skeet for India is such an achievement,” Naruka says.

Uniara didn’t have a shooting range, so a young Naruka would accompany his father to train at Jaipur’s Oases Shooting Range. The father-son duo travelled more than 130 km almost every day or stayed in the state capital for his training.

Naruka competed at the Nationals as a 15-year-old and would finish 38th at the Junior World Championships in Grenada in 2014. The same year, he won a silver medal at the Junior Asian Championships in Al Ain. He later won a bronze medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany in 2015 before graduating to senior international events.

Cementing his place in the senior skeet team, Naruka also spent time training under coaches Pietro Genga and Ennio Falco in Italy, an experience he feels made him a better shooter.

“Both have been experienced skeet shooters with Falco being the 1996 Olympic champion. Staying mostly at the ranges in Capua and Taranto in southern Italy, we would often spend time watching shooters like 2016 Olympic champion Gabriele Rossetti and would also note down our observations, but both the coaches told us to develop our own shooting style,” he says.

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Coming into the Asian Games, Naruka had finished 44th at the ISSF World Championships in Baku apart from two 23rd-place finishes in World Cups.

After bursting into the limelight with his silver on Wednesday, Naruka knows a lot will be expected of him now.

“The next target will be to get a Paris Olympic quota for India and sealing my spot in the Indian team for the Olympics. The last few years have seen skeet shooters like Anagd Vir Singh Bajwa qualifying for the Olympics and winning medals at World Cups and Asian Championships, and a shooter like me always benefits from such competition as we often train together and share inputs,” adds Naruka.





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