Rahi Sarnobat hails from Kolhapur and competes in the 25 meters pistol shooting event. She won her first gold medal at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India. She is the first woman to win a gold medal in shooting in the Asian Games for India - she won the gold at the 2018 Jakarta Palembang Asian Games in the women's 25-meter pistol event. She had won two gold medals in 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She had previously won gold in the 25 m pistol event at the 2008 Youth Commonwealth Games which were held in India.
Arjuna award winner, Rahi Sarnobat made India proud yet again by clinching gold at the ISSF World Cup 2019 held in Munich.
Presenting a candid chat with the shooting star…
When did you first develop inclination for Shooting?
I got to know about this sport when I was at School. I had joined NCC during my School years because my Grandfather always used to tell me that we should always be grateful to your Country and live for the nation. We should give back whatever we can to our Country. He suggested me to join NCC as a way to learn discipline. There I got to learn about Shooting and started liking it. I discovered that I was good at it and decided to give it a shot.
Shooting is not a conventional sport. Did you instantly get support from your family?
Actually, not only Shooting, being a women and getting into any kind of sport is not very conventional. In my city at Kolhapur, we have this passion for shooting or football in our blood. My father and Grandfather always wanted me to do something different, so when I told that I wanted to get into Shooting, there was discussion for one day but once they realised I was serious about it, they supported me purely in all possible ways without ever questioning my dedication or interfering in my career decision. They were behind the curtains always and that’s the right kind of support I have got from the beginning.
Tell us about your early shooting days. Who inspired you to be a Shooter?
As I said, once I was introduced to weapons and Shooting, I just loved it. Since I was an ordinary person, Shooting made me discover something extraordinary about myself. Since I used to be one of the best shooters in the camp, it gave me confidence. Although at that point of time, I didn’t know that it is an Olympic sport and I can take it up as a profession. During my holidays, I read news about Tejaswini Sawant, who was a fellow shooter from my city who won 2 Gold medals at the Common-wealth Games in Australia that year. That inspired me that if she can do it, there is a possibility that even I can do it.
After becoming the first Indian pistol shooter to win World Cup gold in 2013, how did you set your next target?
In 2012, I was just 21 years old and I couldn’t perform what I and everyone was expecting of myself. That hit me very hard in a way that I decided to be more professional and disciplined for the next target. I changed my whole routine and thought process to achieve that and moreover I became a completely different person much more passionate about the game. My target was to maintain where I have reached and keep moving ahead.
You won your second World Cup gold in Munich in 2019 and with it an Olympic quota place in women's 25m pistol shooting. How do you look back at 2019?
2019 has been a very satisfying year as in 2016, I could not qualify because of my injuries and Rehabilitation. So, all my hard work paid off with Gold in 2019. An Injury is for a few days or months but to get back on tracks for a professional athlete is really very difficult as you face competitions and you need to be very focussed from the beginning. With a clear goal in mind, I started my preparations back from 2017.
You are the first Indian to win World Cup gold, first Indian to qualify in 25m pistol for Olympics (2012), first Indian to win an Asian Games gold. How do you feel entitling so many firsts under your name?
Of course, I feel very proud and happy that all these firsts are in my name, but I don’t think anybody can plan these things. We have to put our hard work and try to be better than yesterday and, in the meantime, these things come along. I think all firsts should be achieved really fast as we need many more shooters. I feel really grateful, but I wish we make it 100 soon.
Where did you train in the initial days and who were your coaches and trainers?
I used to train in my hometown Kolhapur in my initial days with my coach Mr. Ajit Patil. Then the Youth Common-wealth games were there in 2008 where I was selected, so I started Shooting at Mumbai also. There Ms. Sheela Kanungo, who was the Secretary of Maharashtra Shooting Association was my Mentor and Guide and continued to be my great support during all these years.
What goes in the making of an Olympic level shooter in terms of training regimen and daily routine?
I think it takes everything to be an Olympian and dream of getting that one medal. A sports person can’t have a 10-5 job. Sport is their life. I start my routine at 6 am in the morning to 7.30-8 pm in the evening. Wherever I am not practicing, then also I am doing something related to shooting, may be meditation, reading, etc.
I think that’s the only way to achieve it by living it through hard work and dedication because there are thousands of persons who are trying to achieve that one thing, so hard work has no substitute.
Shooting is a sport of precision that requires balance and endurance. How do you manage to stay on the top of your sport?
I would say Shooting requires Physical as well as mental Strength, Balance and Endurance. I could do that by self-talk and understanding myself better.
Shooting requires composure and enormous skill. How do you maintain your cool and handle pressure during the big competitions?
I think the pressure is always there and should be there because you are not playing for yourself, for your family or community alone but you are playing for your Country. This pressure gives you the sense of responsibility, but problem starts when you let this pressure empower you. For me self-talk and keeping the goal clear has always helped to balance pressure.
Shooters are prone to a range of injuries due to prolonged postural stresses. What were the most common injuries you came across in your career?
Luckily, I have suffered only one injury and that was because I was walking, and I jumped and fell down. It was Right Elbow Radial head hair-line fracture. Otherwise I do not have any other physical problem, but I take help from regular Physiotherapy sessions to prevent Injuries. Since our Sport is very different and we have to maintain particular positions with weight of the weapons, that is how we tend to get that stiffness in the muscles and injuries too. Riffle shooting make the shooters prone to Back and Knee injuries while Pistol Shooters tend to get Shoulder and Neck Injuries.
What is the scope for a physiotherapist in sports as a career?
Yes of course, Sports Physiotherapy is one of the best careers today because Sports is doing great job in terms of popularity. Since the Sports federations are now better aware and provide 360-degree support to the athletes, the present scenario is very supportive of Sports Physios. In my last 6 years of experience, I have felt that when the Physios travel with the team, they also learn the details of the game better, discuss with Physios of other teams and Countries, and upgrade themselves.
Who were some of the physiotherapists you have worked with closely in your career?
Anuja Dalvi, Niranjan Pandit were my initial Physios and Shloka has been with me for the last 5 years.
What has been the most striking thing you have noticed about the physios you have worked with?
Patience and perseverance are the most striking qualities I have noted.
What are the reasons for shooting's sudden growth as a sport and the huge success in recent times?
Actually, whenever we see any kind of growth in any industry, any Sport or fraternity, the success might be sudden, but the process is definitely not. When Rajvardhan Singh Rathore won Silver Medal followed by Abhinav Bindra’s Gold, people started thinking that we can pursue and achieve that. Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar bagged the Medals consecutively for third time. So, the base of all the success started long back and not achieved in one day.
Tell us about your best Shooting moment.
It’s really very difficult to choose one but I would like to say ASIAN GAMES 2008, because before that I was not able to perform for 2-3 years because of my injury and Rehab. At that time, people used to say that I have lost my track and abilities, but I knew that I was working really hard to get back and one day we will prove it. That was the day when my hard work paid off.
What are the qualities required for one to be a great shooter?
Dedication, patience, clarity of thoughts, maturity and discipline are the key qualities I feel. One should be disciplined even when no one is watching.
Who has been your favourite sportsperson outside shooting?
Rahul Dravid is my favourite. He has always motivated me and continues to do so. I used to watch all his innings LIVE. I always wanted to be patient like him. He motivated me to improve myself.
Your Success mantra.
My Success Myntra is patience and working really hard. You can’t take these things for granted. You need to keep on working on all these things and don’t Compromise.
Message to your fans.
Please keep on supporting me and all the athletes who have worked hard and qualified. We need your blessings to boost our moral always.