Back in training, award-winning mentor Gagan Narang picking up the rifle again

NEW DELHI: The day, August 29, 2019, could not have started with a better note for Gagan Narang. Elavenil Valarivan, one of the most prominent shooters who emerged from the Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation (GNSPF), won its first ISSF World Cup gold in Rio de Janeiro near midnight in India, while the country was preparing to celebrate National Sports Day. It was also the day GNSPF was conferred Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award to identify and foster young and budding talent. The coincidence could not have been more appropriate, and no one was more elated than Elavenil's mentor, Narang.

What else could he have asked for? Narang said satisfied to start a conversation with Timesofindia.com, just before he and the co-founder of GNSPF Pawan Singh He received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind.

An Arjuna award in 2005, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2011 and now the Khel Protsahan Prize for detecting talents and making them champions, the life of an athlete could not have completed a better circle than it has been for Narang. And as things stand, Gun for Glory , the Shooting Academy that operates under the auspices of GNSPF, now has 13 branches throughout the country.

Gagan-Khel-Protsahan-TwitterGagan-Khel-Protsahan-Twitter (Pawan Singh, left, and Gagan Narang receiving the Khel Protsahan award from the President of India)

Ganador de todas las medallas importantes, desde las Copas Mundiales de la ISSF hasta los Juegos Asiáticos y los Juegos de la Commonwealth, el mayor momento del tirador de rifles Narang, sin embargo, fue ganar la medalla de bronce de 10 m Air Rifle en los Juegos Olímpicos de Londres en 2012. Curiosamente, GNSPF ya tenía un año viejo en 2012; y poder lograr un equilibrio como jugador activo y mentor en la cima de su carrera dice mucho sobre la capacidad de Narang para asumir la responsabilidad. De hecho, Narang está de vuelta en el punto de Shooting después de un descanso y será parte de los ensayos de selección nacional programados para esta semana en Delhi.

It was almost unreal for Narang when he learned that his foundation had been nominated for the award, especially because he had reluctantly agreed to apply after his team insisted.

The 36-year-old shooter told the story while expressing his sense of satisfaction in an interview with Timesofindia.com.

Excerpts



From Khel Ratna to the Khel Protsahan Prize, do you think life has given you a complete turn as an athlete?



Definitely, I think it has come full circle, right from the time when I had got an Arjuna award in 2005 to this award now. I think there is a lot of difference between the two awards because the Arjuna was given to me for my performance and this award is given to me for something I have given back to Shooting , which is nurturing and broad-basing the sport. More than myself, it's for my team and the dedicated hard work they have put in over the past few years.

Take us the moment when the news of this award came to you for the first time.



I would like to take it a little further back when my team said we should apply for the prize. Said, Humein Nahi Milne Wala , let's keep working and let them talk about our performances. But they said: No sir, Karte Hain (let's do it). Then I said: Okay, if you feel it, go ahead. This is how the application process was carried out. Then (when the list of awards was made public), we said nominate hua hai and a thousand gaya hai . We were in two minds to whether announce it or not. Two days later, we got the letter from the Ministry that it has been awarded. For us personally, I and our co-founder Pawan Singh, it was a dream-come It was a big pat on the back. We had to struggle so much for something like this.

Gagan-gun-for-gloryGagan-gun-for-glory (Gagan Narang talking to youngsters)



You founded the Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation while you were at the peak of your career. How did the idea strike you at that stage?



I was preparing for the 2012 Olympics at that time. It was an important decision of my life, but Pawan said we can manage it, we just had to find a system and put it in one place. He said: Very little effort from you will be required until the next few years when you play. Perhaps after you decide to enter training, then it would obviously be a natural progression. I was already helping many shooters at that time, either to lend weapons, giving the right advice. So we decided to do it structurally and provide a 360 degree solution to someone who wants to enter the sport. That's how it all started in 2011. I also had a long discussion with Viren Rasquinha. He said: Be sure of that. The Olympics are approaching and should not be distracted. But many people also told me to open an academy now, since there is no hope of an Olympic medal from me. I am happy to be able to prove that they are wrong and win that medal in my third Olympic Games. And now with this award, I am happy to have been able to sustain this company as well.

Of course, you won the Olympic medal next year (2012), but did at any time you find it difficult to balance the responsibilities of Shooting and running the foundation?



I would put it across as a blessing in disguise because actually the foundation kept me focused around the sport. So when I was not Shooting or was on a break, I was still thinking about the sport and how to help it grow. It didn't take much of my time because I had a lovely team behind me.

The foundation will soon complete 10 years. Was there a time when challenges such as financing, etc., threatened to dominate it?



There were many sleepless nights in this process. I could go on for a couple of days talking about them. But I think challenges are something every sportsperson faces. Of course, finances are a challenge always because there is so much to do in sport, so many people to support. I wish that Shooting as a sport comes to the notice of companies wanting to spend their CSR funds. We will then be able to go to the next level. Right now, a fraction of the percentage of the country's population plays the sport and if you are able to take one decimal out of that fraction, I think the four Olympic medals that Shooting has won will double in the next few Olympics.

You still are active in your own Shooting career. What's on your mind, now that you are well into training having taken a long break?



I took an eight-month break, which was the longest in the 21 years of my sports trip, just to have a new perspective on things. I thought I had spent a lot of time away from my parents. So I wanted to spend quality time with them. I did it and I also saw the sport grow like a stranger and I decided that maybe I should try again, maybe I'm still good enough. Then I went back to the training process. I'm not thinking too far, I'm just enjoying the process. If it produces good results, I will be happy with that.

Gagan-with-ParentsGagan-with-Parents (Gagan Narang with his parents)



Shooting has no restrictions in terms of age, as long as one has him or her to do it well. So, are things like, for example, the loss of muscle memory that tells a shooter that it's time to leave the gun?



I think after learning any sport for so long, it's very difficult to forget. Every molecule of your body breathes that sport. The moment I touched my rifle (again after eight months), within one week I was Shooting scores that I never shot before. (But) With the current system and the kind of competition Indian Shooting has , the notion that it's a no-age-bar kind of sport has slowly changed. I think the youngsters are performing quite well now, and I hope most of them will be able to sustain and become great seniors as well.

Indian Shooting will try to return to the Olympics podium in Tokyo after a medal-less outing at Rio 2016. In which events do you think are India's best chances of winning medals?



I think overall we are at a much better level than what we were in 2016. It would be very unfair for me to take names here, but I think with the inclusion of team events, we have a pretty good chance at the medals. Also the youngsters are fully motivated, fully charged. Right now , the kind of shooters who have been selected are a good mix of someone who has gone to the Olympics before and someone who is going to go for the first time. So I think they have a lot to look up to each other within themselves, and the best part is they have no backlog. They are fired up to go out there and get that medal. We as seniors used to think that going to the Olympics and winning a medal is our goal, but the current generation doesn't want to win any medal, they want to win 'the' gold medal. That is the perspective that the youngsters have changed, and that is the growth of the sport.

Finally , the chorus of voices asking for a boycott of the 2022 CWG due to Shooting 's exclusion is growing louder. How do you view the situation?



Frankly, I don't think it is quite reasonable because there are a lot of players (across sports) who are preparing and targeting a medal at the Commonwealth Games, and a lot of livelihoods depend on that. But if a decision has to be taken in the interest of the country to save a sport that has produced so many medals and has been the number one sport in the Commonwealth Games, then I think we should all stand collectively. But the decision lies in the able hands of the administrators. There are two sides of the coin, of course, but when it comes to unity of the country, I am sure that a lot of people will support it (the boycott). At the same time, I feel it is not fair to miss participation because of Shooting . I hope good sense prevails and Shooting is not left out of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

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