Mairaj Khan: From cricket bat prizes to India's pioneer skeet shooter

Mairaj Khan dreamed of representing India as a cricketer. So how did he end up being one of the country's finest shooters?

By Samrat Chakraborty

When Mairaj Khan earned his first prize winnings in shooting, he spent it on cricket bats. Cricket was his first love but shooting, he says, has turned out to be his destiny.

Back in September 2015, Khan became the first Indian to qualify for the Olympics in skeet shooting as he sealed the berth for the Rio Games.

Though the 45-year-old has pioneered skeet shooting in India, his journey in the sport began with quite a happy accident. At the age of 12, Khan bagged prize cash of a Rs. 30 for finishing third at the UP State Rifle Competition in the junior category. Mairaj considers it a big achievement as he bagged the podium finish without any training.

"For the first time in my life, I had participated in the U.P State Rifle Competition (Junior Category) wherein I was only 12 years old,” Mairaj Khan to Olympic Channel.

“There I won third place and received a mere 30 Rupees cash prize which was a big achievement for me at that point of time without any training etc.... that 30 Rupees meant a lot for me.

"I was delighted and excited and rushed to buy a cricket bat as I always wanted to represent my country and wear the Indian national flag on my chest. That was a dream which I thought would come only if I play cricket. But I was wrong. I never knew it was destined to come to me through shooting," he added.

Mairaj Khan.

Khan booked his spot for the Tokyo Olympics with a 1-2 finish with his compatriot Angad Bajwa at the Asian Championship at Doha in November 2019. It will be his second appearance at the quadrennial event. But his dream to raise the Indian tri-color high on the Olympic podium still remains. 

"My real goal is to bring the highest medal to our country in Skeet Shooting which would create history and fulfill my dream for India. At least people would be aware of this sport through me because till now it’s not as popular as it should be among the masses," he said.

Khan is the first and only Indian to have held a World Cup medal and the Olympic quota at the same time after bagging a silver medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup 2016 held in April in Rio de Janeiro.

He is currently training at the Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range for the Tokyo Olympics