Shooter Abhishek Verma must blank out Croatia and start afresh in Tokyo 

The world no.1 remains one of India's best bets for a medal in Tokyo 
By Soham Mukherjee

What can be a better birthday gift than an Olympic medal?

Abhishek Verma who is set to turn 32 on August 1 is the current world no.1 in the 10m air pistol category and remains one of India's medal hopefuls along with Saurabh Chowdhury. However, his performances in their recent Croatia trip have not resulted in podium places.

In the European Championship, where he was shooting in the MQS (Minimum Qualification System) section, he managed to score 579 and finished 11th. Although he shot better in the Osijek World Cup, it was not enough to see him finish on the podium. What is more concerning is the gap between him and the top three shooters.

While Verma managed to score 179.3 in the finals, Javad Foroughi of Iran was leagues ahead of him with 243.0, to bag the gold medal.

While there is little doubt over the quality that the lawyer-turned-shooter possesses, the need of the hour is to throw the Croatia results out of the window and focus only on the job at hand. Earlier in 2021, during the New Delhi World Cup held in March, he finished with a bronze medal and that should boost his morale.

It was a tough time for shooters during the lockdown and Verma also has suffered. Previously, he would finish the 60 qualification shots within 40-50 minutes, but months away from the range have worsened the time as well as he now takes more than an hour to get done.

Yet with the help of GoPro, live-streaming, and video calls he was in constant touch with his coach Jaspal Rana, who is based in Mussoorie, during lockdown.

"It's obviously very important to have a coach beside you. Since he [Rana] has known me for a while it's easier for him to spot errors right away and find ways to fix them," he previously stated.

In his brief career as a shooter, he has shown that he can thrive under pressure. At the Rio World Cup, he was battling Turkey's Ismail Keles in the final shot for a gold and the difference was just 0.1. Verma focused on the target, rather than on the scoreboard and achieved a near-perfect 10.7. Whereas, his Turkish opposition caved in under pressure and could manage only a 9.7.

“There was a lot of pressure, but obviously I could not let that affect me. The yoga and meditation that we do are all for these moments, precisely."

And in Tokyo, it will be mostly about handling the pressure. The world no.1 has little to prove but a lot to achieve.