Gagan Narang says his Olympic medal shows different shapes can succeed

Narang, a London 2012 Olympics bronze medal-winning shooter, believes many saw his big build as a deterrent to excellence.

By Utathya Nag

For Indian shooter Gagan Narang, standing tall on the Olympic podium in London was also about proving a point.

An Olympic bronze medallist in 10m Air Rifle event at the London 2012 Games, Gagan Narang is considered one of the influential Indian athletes of his generation. But growing up, very few, if any, gave him a chance to win at the Olympics.

“A lot of people told me you are a hefty kid, you cannot win the Olympics,” the champion shooter revealed during a FIT India Webinar with Indian sports minister Kiren Rijiju.

However, instead of getting discouraged with the dejection, Gagan Narang channelled it in a positive way to help him reach his goal.

“But at the end of the day, I proved them all wrong. If you think about what other people say about you then you should stop living your life,” he added.

The Olympic torch that lit the flame

Gagan Narang has represented India in four different Olympic Games, and each of them was a realization of a dream that took seed when he was just nine-years-old.

“As a kid in 1992 when the Barcelona Games were happening, we had a black and white television. There, for the first time, I saw an archer lighting the Olympic flame with an arrow.

“That is when I got to know what the Olympic Games are all about. After watching these I told my parents I want to go to the Olympics,” he recollected his first memory of the Olympics.

Taking up shooting and the challenges

To make his dream a reality, Gagan Narang, during his childhood, dabbled in several sports like cricket, tennis and football before finally turning his attention to shooting.

“I started shooting because it was a sport that challenged my mental ability. Shooting is a sport I feel which is 98 per cent mental and just 2 per cent physical,” he noted.

Despite relying more on the mental aspect of things, both physical and mental fitness are integral to excel at shooting, Gagan Narang feels.

“A lot of people said that it’s not a very physical sport but when you are shooting you know that even your nails sweat... it’s really a tough sport,” he reasoned.

When Gagan Narang took up the sport seriously back in 1997, he had to walk 5kms daily to get to his shooting range for practice.

“In those days, people used to ask me, ‘Kaunse picture ki shooting karta hai?’ (Which film are you shooting?). It was very difficult for me to convince people that shooting with a gun is also a sport.

“Slowly the myth changed when we started winning,” he stated.