Life has come full circle for former shooter Joydeep Karmakar, a decade after he missed a bronze by a whisker at the 2012 London Olympics. Back with the Indian team as the chief national rifle shooting coach till June 2025, a tenure that will include the 2024 Paris Olympics, Karmakar feels like an "athlete again".
"When I landed in Delhi, I could feel myself as an athlete now -- as if I'm gearing up to compete again, that same eagerness, passion is back again," the 42-year-old, who will officially take charge of the shooting camp from Monday, told PTI.
Indian shooters had a never-before 15 quota places in the Tokyo Games last year, but the likes of Manu Bhakers and Saurabh Chaudharys drew a blank, bringing focus on their mental preparation to cope with the Olympics pressure.
"It's a huge responsibility. It would be a lie if I would say I'm not nervous, as it's just a little more than two years to Paris. The quota distribution will begin in four months' time," he said with a sense of confidence.
Having declined to take up a similar role three years back, Karmakar was picked after a full-fledged interview process that went on for three-four months.
"It's very challenging, definitely. But what's there in life without challenges. I know many of these guys as young shooters. Maybe a few fresh faces have come up. "I will use the next two weeks to understand their mindset. We have to see what ideas they have for shooting. A good coach should also know where to stop."
In the 50m rifle 3-position, Aishwary Pratap Singh has grabbed headlines with a gold in the first World Cup of the year where the 20-year-old defeated world champions to climb up in the world rankings. But Karmakar refused to name any promising shooters.
"I don't have a magic bullet but I strongly feel Indian shooters are technically very sound. They have immense capabilities. "Our job is to guide them, to lead them to the right place, to make them perform to their highest on the given day. Maybe that we missed," he added.
Karmakar is not new to coaching as he runs an academy with four centres in Kolkata which has more than 250 trainees.
"I stopped shooting in 2015 and then started the academy, it was more about giving back, rather than serious coaching. It was about facilitating the shooters from Bengal who were lagging behind and I'm really happy with the progress. "I cannot give time for the academy now but we have a full set of coaches to look after the academy now," he concluded.
Karmakar, who will primarily look after his pet 50m rifle event, knows his task is cut-out. His real test will begin at the Baku World Cup from May 27-June 9.