Picture by 2010 Getty Images

Rahi Sarnobat terms Tokyo 2020 as 'unique, difficult and challenging'

The ace shooter feels that she had been well prepared for Tokyo 2020
By Soham Mukherjee

Rahi Sarnobat was in the form of her life going into the Tokyo Olympics 2020. At the New Delhi World Cup in March 2021 she had won a silver in the 25m air pistol event. She did even better in Osijek and became the only Indian shooter to bag a gold in Croatia. And yet, she returned empty-handed from Japan.

So, what went wrong for the Asian games gold-medallist?

"The calendar," she quipped to Olympics.com.

After the Delhi world Cup, she tested positive for Covid-19. So for about 25 days, she could not even touch her weapon and her body was too feeble to do anything worthwhile in the range. Yet, immediately after that, she had to leave for Zagreb, Croatia to participate in the European Championship and the World Cup.

"There the quarantine period helped as I got to rest again. When I started shooting I found that my breathing capacity had reduced to half. It was a major shock," she reminisced.

Yet she pushed herself to the limit and the gold was a major boost to her confidence.

"It made me feel prepared for Tokyo. But now I feel that I peaked early. Again this is in retrospection. So I don't regret participating in Croatia at all. Also, when you peak in some competition emotionally, physically, mentally you are drained out."

 Rahi Sarnobat (left) won the Olympic quota for India at the ISSF World Cup in Munich

Sarnobat knew that she had given her all and to recover she went on a seven-day break to reset for Mission Tokyo. But she feels that it was not enough.

"I used that competition just to check myself technically. But, when you peak, you just do. I tried to hold on to that till that Olympics. But what you want is different and whether your body allows you to do it is completely different.

"However, on such a huge platform you don't accept it and you push yourself to the limits because there is no other option. You can't accept that you are not ready. I don't know if I could have done anything or planned better at that point in time."

Sarnobat managed to score 573 in the qualifiers which was significantly lower than the qualification score of 584. Did she succumb to pressure? The shooter does not think so.

"We are used to that. At the Olympics, I was pretty excited and the pressure was not that of fear. I wanted to go to the shooting range and I wanted to perform. It was not negative pressure. Previously in some competitions, I have felt that I don't know what will happen and that is another kind of pressure. I have experienced uncertainties.

"But this time the pressure was positive which help you perform and give your best. So this performance has affected me more than my failure in London. I have never been so ready in my life," she explains.

Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat and Yashaswini Singh Deswal. Photo: NRAI.
Picture by NRAI

For the upcoming Olympic cycle, she has already figured out in which competitions she will participate and in which ones she will test her technical skills.

"I always feel that Indian shooters compete in too many tournaments. So I compete very less in domestic tournaments and focus on international competitions where there will be a good contest. Periodisation is very important for shooters. It is a very important concept and we should inculcate that concept in India," she remarked.

The shooter has already got back to the range and is practicing at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune. She will return to action in the ISSF President's Cup in Larnaca, Cyprus in November.