Shooting is oxygen for me; that’s what keeps me going, says Sanjeev...

Shooting is oxygen for me; that’s what keeps me going, says Sanjeev Rajput

  
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Sanjeev Rajput

It seems Sanjeev Rajput is on an unforgiving terrain — every step he takes, it seems, there is the lurking danger of falling into an abyss. But all along the champion shooter, thanks to his never-say-die attitude has come out triumphant, defying odds.

So, when it seemed everything was lost for the ex-Navy rifle marksman, following a serious allegation, Sanjeev Rajput came back into national reckoning and is now part of the squad that will take on the best in the upcoming ISSF World Cup to be held at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range at New Delhi later this month.

The upcoming World Cup is going to be very special for the Haryana marksman given that he is coming off from the most difficult test of his life. Winner of three World Cup medals, including a gold medal, life has been quite uncharitable to Sanjeev Rajput, the last two months even more so. His life was turned upside down by allegations of rape and his reputation lay in tatters.

It was then that, like a true sportsperson, he felt the only way out of the mess was to prove himself once again. He had to remain calm and perform really well at the National Championship and the two selection trials after that in order to make the cut for the Delhi World Cup.

And behold! The 36-year-old shooter did it. Even as the likes of former world champion in trap shooting Manavjit Sandhu and talented young shooter Ayonika Paul failed to find a place in the national squad, Rajput was bang on target.

“The challenges I faced were immense,” he told indianshooting.com. Call it a gift of God or whatever, but Rajput says that whatever is thrown at him to “paralyse him”, it helps him “discover himself and emerge a stronger person”.

“Of course, I’d be lying if I said all this (the allegations of rape) didn’t affect me. It’s bound to shake up any normal human being, a sportsperson even more so. But I found solace in the fact that I have people who believed in me and my ability, which is why I could perform well.

“I asked my parents to accompany me during the trials. For the very first time in my career, they watched me shoot live. I wanted them to be around,” Rajput explained. One target achieved, Rajput’s next goal is to be part of all the World Cups this year.

“My training plan is to get selected for all the upcoming World Cups and produce good results in my pet event,” the champion shooter says.

After all, Rajput knows that what all he sets out to achieve, he manages fluently. Even when the chips were down he came back home from Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2016 with a silver in 50m Rifle Three Position from the World Cup.

The former Navy marksman, despite knowing that he might not be the ‘chosen one’ even as he was earning an Olympic quota for the country — at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Delhi in January last year — decided to give it his best shot and managed to bag one of those prized slots. Only to see someone else getting to don India colours at Rio.

Still, he didn’t get demoralised. Come, February 22, and Rajput will again be at the Karni Singh Shooting Range rubbing shoulders with the best in the business. And who knows, he could be walking out with his fourth World Cup medal.

Not just that, the fighter in him is already telling him to begin preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “I’m definitely looking at the 2020 Olympic Games with full preparation. There’s hunger in my belly…I still have unfulfilled dreams…Olympics being the pinnacle of our sport. Shooting is what keeps me going. It’s oxygen for me,” concludes Rajput.

His contemporaries like Abhinav Bindra may have called it a day, but for Rajput it’s the beginning of yet another journey — to once again tell the world he is not finished yet.

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