The Indian National anthem was being played, the tri-colour was flying at the Belmont Shooting Centre and Heena Sidhu was standing at the podium, she braved many obstacles to achieve the feat, her eyes sparkled! Winning the Gold medal in the 25m Air Pistol event was not the only victory for her, a lot more was won. Probably when she hugged her husband after the win reflected a part of the whole story!
Just a few days before, in the build-up to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, 21 names were dropped by the Indian Sports Ministry from the contingent which included former shooter and her coach-cum-husband Ronak Pandit. Among the others in the list were PV Sindhu’s mother Vijaya Pusarla and Saina Nehwal’s father Harvir Singh as extra officials, but Ronak’s exclusion was surprising as he was not only a well-established sportsman himself but was also Heena’s coach and the High-Performance Director of Indian pistol and rifle team.
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) April 10, 2018
Frustrated with the decision, she bursts out her emotions by saying, “I just want 2 put it out for everyone that Ronak is my technical coach. Anybody who has spent even 5 minutes on the range will know I have only one coach and that’s Ronak. He is also team manager for shooting.”
She never gives up; Sidhu is a fighter and never keeps shut when things around aren’t fair to her. Flashback to 2016, the Indian shooter pulled herself out of the Asian Gun Championships as a sign of protest after the Women participants were asked to wear a hijab. Guns and girls don’t belong together is a concept which she opposed!
The situation was so severe before the Gold Coast games that Raminder Singh, the chief of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) tweeted that they are facing more competition from their own people than what they are actually expecting at the Commonwealth Games!
He even lent a hand of support to mend the unfavourable circumstances. ‘The NRAI is clearly willing to pay for our observer, who is an integral part of our team. It’s almost as if we have to fight more here than there! .The issue shall be accreditation. I am willing to opt out as I think to have him,’ tweeted Raminder.
After much tension and speculations, Ronak Pandit was finally given the nod by the Indian Olympic Association (IOC) and given the permission to board the flight to Australia on ‘cost to government’ and was designated as the coach-cum-manager of the Indian shooting team.
Heena Sidhu toiled hard from dawn to dusk and was expecting a fruitful result at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The former World No.1 was a front runner in her events, but disappointed in the 10m Air Pistol event where she finished second only to India’s young sensation Manu Bhaker who won the Gold medal in the event.
This was not the end of the battles Heena Sidhu had to fight though, far from it. Ahead of the mega-event in Gold Coast, questions were raised over her selection and inclusion in the team. Bias and favouritism on the part of Ronak Pandit, who is also the National Observer for Shooting was brought up. It was quite well known that she had suffered a problem in her trigger finger which could have severely affected her performance.
She came back with a gem of a performance in the Women’s 25m Air Pistol event to finish at the top spot with 38 points and scripting a new Commonwealth Games record. She fisted the air with her hand as soon as she fired the final shot, bringing up India’s 11th Gold medal at the ongoing Games.
Turning back, she gave a nice warm hug to her better half, Ronak Pandit who was watching her perform at the Arena. Indeed, both of them went through a roller coaster ride, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter, Heena Sidhu will bring back the Gold medal back to India! Take a bow, Heena Sidhu!