Asian Games: Sift Kaur Samra, 50m 3 position gold medallist, took up shooting to get a sports quota medical seat

Seven years ago, Sift Kaur Samra enrolled for rifle shooting. Her sole purpose was to get a medical seat using a sports certificate. On Wednesday morning at the Hangzhou Asian Games, the 22-year-old medicine dropout won the gold medal in the women’s 50m 3P event with a new world record of 469.6. Equally impressive was the 7.3-point lead she secured over second-placed Qiongyue Zhang of China.

“Sift started shooting because a teacher advised her to get the sports quota certificate to help her in her studies. As her interest grew, the sport became more important to her and she eventually had to drop out of her MBBS course,” Sift’s father Pawandeep Singh Samra told The Indian Express.

Sift was managing academics and shooting well but had to miss the exams as she had to travel for competitions. There came a point when her college refused to give her a separate date for internal exams. That is when she had to give up medicine, but the decision paid off on Wednesday.

Deepali Deshpande, her long-time coach, believes Wednesday’s gold medal will only motivate Sift further. “When I first met her in 2019 along with her mother Ramneek Kaur, I still remember she was a very calm child… the calmest junior shooter I saw. I was training Anjum (Moudgil) and other senior shooters at that time,” she said.

“Sift was quick to grasp whatever changes we suggested and her biggest strength is that she lets things go. If she has a bad day, she forgets that and wants to make a new start. Her standing series has been very strong and it comes from her shooting in 10m air rifle events.”

After starting off in the 10m air rifle, Sift shifted to the 50m 3P event four years ago.

Freedom Sale

Her father Pawandeep got her a 10m air rifle worth Rs 2.5 lakh. The youngster was initiated into the event on the insistence of coach Vikas Prasad at the Sector 25 Shooting Range in Chandigarh, a place more than 250 kms from their home in Faridkot. It was not until she competed at the national level in 50m 3P events and qualified for the final that she got her own rifle for the event.

“As she was competing in 10m Air Rifle earlier, it was easier for her to adjust to the prone and kneeling positions. We had to improve her body posture and once she got her hip and body position locked, it became easier for her,” coach Prasad said.

Sift Asian Games Sift Kaur Samra with coach Vikas Prasad at Chandigarh.

Sift’s parents left no stone unturned in the quest to establish her in shooting.

“While the medical tuition fees range between Rs 1 lakh to 2 lakh annualy in high school, the MBBS course too is an expensive one. But her father Pawandeep Singh Samra, who is an agriculturist and owns a rice sheller too, did not worry about the expenses.

“As a father, I can support and do whatever I can for Sift. She wanted her own rifle so we got her one. She wanted to study medicine, we supported her and were elated when she got admission in MBBS,” Pawandeep said.

Beating the best

On Wednesday, the youngster broke the Asian Games record in qualification with a total score of 594 out of 600 along with China’s Xia Siyu, who topped the qualification on the basis of more inner 10s. Sift was leading with a kneeling series of 154.6 and stayed ahead after the prone series with a total score of 312.5. The standing elimination series saw her shooting only two shots below 10 and nine shots of 10.5 or better, including two 10.9s, to claim the gold medal with a lead of 7.3 points over Zhang.

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“She took the confidence of shooting 200 out of 200 in prone and 197 out of 200 in standing in qualification to the final. Even though she had a bad first kneeling series, the way she fought her way back to the lead after the first kneeling stage set her up for the prone and standing series. She was in her zone and her standing series shooting was the best I have seen in recent times,” shared national coach Manoj Kumar.

Foreign coach Thomas Farnik too was impressed with the youngster. “The world record can only happen when one shoots well in all three stages. She utilised her training and took to the competition with full confidence. To shoot consistently in all the three positions and that too in the final will give Sift a big boost. To perform like that against a packed field, including the Chinese, means she can handle pressure well,” says Farnik.

A few months ago, Sift had taken to knitting as a hobby. She was worried that her needle won’t be allowed on flights. When she returns home, the Asian Games champion will be spending some time on knitting. “She wanted to take her knitting needle to knit something while at the airport or in her free time, but dropped the idea due to the worry of it not being allowed. She will knit to de-stress once she comes home,” Pawandeep said.

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