Anjum Moudgil’s Journey to the Paris Olympics

The former World No.1 rifle shooter will represent India in Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions event at the Paris Games

Deepti Patwardhan
First Published5 Jul 2024, 07:30 AM IST
Paris will be the second time around for Moudgil, who was also part of the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics.
Paris will be the second time around for Moudgil, who was also part of the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics.

When Anjum Moudgil was knocked down last year, not for the first time in her sport, she decided to rise above, literally. An Olympian and a former World No.1, the rifle shooter was relegated to the sidelines due to her form, while the Indian team competed at the 2023 World Championships and the deferred 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. It was a body blow, but rather than wallow in regret about missed opportunities, she made way for new experiences and tried her hand at paragliding.

“It was very emotional journey in those months,” says Moudgil. “I was just trying too hard to make it to the team. I used that time, not being in the team, to do my training, work on myself. I took a break from shooting.”

In October, Moudgil, who is also an avid painter, spent time in Manali learning paragliding. It was just the reset Moudgil was looking for; she returned to shooting with a clear target in her sights: the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Also read: Tennis star N.Sriram Balaji's route to the Paris Olympics 

With the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) tweaking its selection policy for the Olympics, Moudgil still had a shot at making the cut even though she had been unable to win a quota place. According to the new policy, the NRAI would hold a series of four selection trials before the Games to send the best possible squad to Paris.

Though Moudgil, 30, started slowly in the first round, she topped the second and third rounds and ended with a second placed finish in the fourth and final selection trial in May to seal her Paris berth. Moudgil and Sift Kaur Samra will represent India in Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions event at the Paris Games, which begin on 26 July.

It will be a second Olympics for Moudgil, who was also part of the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics. After the disappointment of Tokyo, where she finished 15th in the 50m 3p and 18th in the 10m air rifle, and was thus knocked out before the final, Moudgil seemed to have bounced back. In 2022, she won a silver medal at the Baku World Cup and a bronze at the Changwon World Cup. She also ascended to World No.1 in 50m 3p in July 2022. Though a series of poor results grounded her, Moudgil believes her comeback began with the National Games in Goa from 25 October-9 November 2023.

A technical sport like shooting can be all-consuming, especially Moudgil’s pet event, the 50m 3p, where players have to shoot in three positions—kneeling, prone and standing, in that order.

The target is placed outdoors, at a distance of 50m from the shooters’ stand, while the athletes are indoors aiming at the centre (10th) ring that is smaller than a Euro cent coin. Since the target’s difficulty is determined by weather conditions, it is the most demanding discipline in shooting, lasting over three hours, and is rightly called the “marathon”. Strength, endurance, balance, flexibility— athletes are tested on all of these parameters in 50m 3p.

“When I was a junior, everyone used to say the standing part is the most difficult one,” says Moudgil. “I made a point that I have to be the best in it. My standing position became my stronger position. Almost every shooter in the world goes through this, where you are struggling in one position and have to put in more work in that.”

With the Olympics just a few weeks away, Moudgil and the Indian team are now fine-tuning for the mega-event. After a break, they will resume their training at Volmerange-Les-Mines in France on 15 July, before heading to Paris. This will mark the end a three-year Olympic cycle that had begun with disappointment in Tokyo. The Indian shooting contingent had gone to the Tokyo Olympics with great expectations but were unable to deliver a medal.

“I don’t think any of us are carrying baggage from Tokyo,” she says. That is as much Moudgil, the Indian shooting team, and the country, can hope for.

Deepti Patwardhan is a sportswriter based in Mumbai.

Also read: Why Carlos Alcaraz is the top contender at Wimbledon 2024

 

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First Published:5 Jul 2024, 07:30 AM IST
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