In our August series #IStandIndependent, we profile Akash, a promising para shooter looking to make his mark in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Akash has maintained a consistently good performance, which is pretty incredible given that he comes from a financially poor background and has received no support from his state.
He doesn’t have a shooting range to himself like Abhinav Bindra, or a pistol or ammunition. Yet, 28-year-old para-shooter Akash never fails to hit the mark and is raring to make strike gold in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Born in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district, Akash comes from a desolated background, where his family was into farming.
“I suffered a polio attack when I was less than two years old and was left disabled in one foot”, says Akash. “A family member introduced me to shooting, and I was hooked. My father is poor, and we had no money, but he did his best to support my interest in it,” he adds.
Moment of glory
Akash took up shooting seriously when he was 16-years old, practising at a shooting range near his village. In 2009, he took part in his first national championship and won a bronze medal. His most recent performance at the Osijek 2019 Shooting Para Sport World Cup in Croatia was outstanding where he finished winning two gold medals in the 50-metre Free Pistol M and Air Pistol Events. He has a total of four gold medals in international events.
Pretty remarkable when you consider the enormous financial difficulties he faces. However, Akash is battling with severe financial distress.
Akash works part-time and takes time out to practise his shooting in his spare time. “I am grateful to my coach Subhash Rana, for helping me with financially. Thanks to him, I was selected for the world championship events and I am hoping to qualify for the Paralympics and prove my worth there,” says Akash.
Akash’s coach Subhash, who is also the national coach appointed by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) believes Akash has great potential. He says, “At this point, Akash’s score is just slightly lower than that of fellow shooters like Manish Narwal. The difference is very narrow and can be easily bridged if some financial support comes his way”. Subhash is convinced Akash can improve his game.
For the last one year, Subhash has been supporting him with funds for ammunition and pistol. “He used to work as a courier earlier and even after working full-time he was winning medals. I told him to leave that job and promised to help in any way I can”.
Two international para shooting championships are coming up which are crucial for Akash. The first one is in Sydney, which will happen later this year and then in Dubai in early 2020. These are qualifying rounds for the Paralympics and Akash’s chances of getting the quota are high.
Subhash hopes 2020 will change Akash’s fate. “He has worked so hard on his performance despite so many odds. It is so hard to keep your spirits up when people on your team are getting cash rewards, but you get no acknowledgement. Government policies should be uniform for all so sportspersons are motivated,” he says.
(This story was originally published on newzhook.com)