“I can certainly retain my touch!”, India’s ace rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil is hoping to see the world win the battle against COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak has cast serious doubts over the Olympic Games but the 26-year-old, a medal prospect at the quadrennial extravaganza, is currently not thinking about things that are beyond her control.
The young shooting brigade of the country has emerged as world-beaters by breaking a hatful of records in recent years, and the World Championships silver medallist Anjum is certainly at the sharp end of things.
“It was a little difficult for us. Everything has changed. We were so eager to go to the Olympics and come back successful. But then, it was important on the part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organisers to come to such a decision. Health is always a priority, especially for athletes who travel far and wide,” Anjum told The Bridge, in an exclusive interview.
Only the second woman shooter from the country after Tejaswini Sawant to claim a World Championship medal, the Ludhiana native is known for her dexterity in both 10m Air Rifle and 50m Rifle 3-position categories.
With shooting ranges padlocked and training centres and gyms shuttered, Anjum has now found herself on a new, unfamiliar turf. Home. With family. At a time when most of the world is on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Anjum says she has been enjoying helping out her mother in most of her household chores. While shooting is her forte, not many are aware that she is known to be a good painter too.
“Finding something we are good at, apart from sports, is very important. Sports is just a part of our lives. This is the time we can learn something new about ourselves. I never knew I could cook, but I have made so many new dishes. I have been painting as well and planning to work on as much artwork as possible. Painting makes me a calmer person. When I’m painting, it is more of like I’m into the zone and nothing much bothers me,” she says.
In bygone years, alongside nurturing her promising shooting career, Anjum says admittedly that she focussed on her education as well, which includes successful completion of a Masters in Sports Psychology — the knowledge of which has been fruitful in her shooting career. “It gives me a clear signal as to how I should handle my mind and deal with stress,” she tells us.
Anjum was one of the first Indian shooters to secure a Tokyo Olympics berth in the 10m Air Rifle. She did so after winning a silver medal at the ISSF World Championship in Changwon in September, 2018. And isn’t having to put everything on the back-burner a difficult task? “Yes, it is. We are not able to travel or train. Tournaments have been suspended. But I’m ensuring that there is no decline in fitness level. There are a few who have shooting ranges at home. I have been practicing 10m Air Rifle shoot at home,” she says.
Her first international breakthrough came when she clinched a double gold in the 50m Rifle 3-positions in both individual and team events, at the 2016 South Asian Games in Guwahati. Besides, the following year saw her make a successful first appearance at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in Brisbane, Australia, where she won the silver medal in 10m Air Rifle as well as bronze in 50m Rifle Prone.
On being asked what inspired her to take up the sport, she elaborates, “I have been a part of other sports apart from shooting during my teenage years, including throwball and dodgeball. I’m really bad at team sports, where you have to be dependent on other people. Shooting was an individual sport, if anything at all goes wrong, you are to be blamed. This sport helped me realise how to control my mind and body. After two years in shooting, I wanted an Indian jersey. I had to earn it. That’s how I competed in my first international tournament in 2011. When I got my first Indian tracksuit, it was the best feeling ever.”
Despite being a highly acclaimed shooter and an avid painter, she loves, by her own admission, to relax with a game of tennis as well. Ask Anjum who is her favourite tennis player and pat comes the reply, “Federer and Djokovic”.
As the pressure mounts with every milestone that she crosses, Anjum is pinning all her hopes on disciplined training for her forthcoming pursuits. Now that she is on a break, she will look to redraw her plans and further hone her craft.
Come July next year, when Tokyo 2021 gets underway, millions of eyeballs will be on Anjum as she guns for glory in her Olympic debut. In the backdrop of Anjum’s recent stellar performances, the Tokyo bull’s eye seems not too far away from her reach.