No way home for stoic Saurabh Chaudhary
Saurabh Chaudhary, who has failed to make it to the Asian Games and World Championships squads, says he has moved past his Tokyo Olympics heartbreak and that his current struggles are not due to lack of practice.
Two years in sports is a very long time, especially in a country like India. Two years ago, Saurabh Chaudhary was considered as the country's best shooter. Now, he fails to make it to the senior squad.
Given the quality of the former World rank 1 pistol shooter, nobody would have predicted that the 21-year-old would fade into oblivion after the Tokyo Olympics. The entire shooting contingent was panned after their Tokyo Olympics show, but most people assumed if anyone would return stronger from the defeat it would be Saurabh.
However, Saurabh Chaudhary has struggled woefully in his attempts to mount a comeback.
On Saturday, as the shooting teams for ISSF World Championships in Baku and Asian Games were announced, he failed to find his name on the list yet again. His exclusion means that the 2018 Asian Games gold medalist won't be defending his title at the continental showpiece.
Speaking to The Bridge, the reserved shooter said his challenge right now is to remain mentally strong and to keep doing what he always has been.
"Mental strength is the most important part of shooting. That is what is the make-and-break for us. For physical fitness, we have to do basic training to keep ourselves fit, but that is only secondary to the mental strength part," he said.
Going into a shell after Tokyo 2020
Since the Tokyo disappointment, Saurabh participated only in two major international events - ISSF World Cup in Cairo and ISSF Junior Cup in Suhl; his lone success in individual events came in Cairo, where he struck gold.
He failed to make the cut for the World Cup which happened in Bhopal earlier this year.
Talking about his absence from the international scene, Saurabh said, "I have practised all this while. There was no break. I didn't play a major tournament but was part of the selection trials."
On Friday, it seemed like Saurabh would script a fairytale return to the team after he won the final round of the national selection trials. However, he failed to make it to the squad as he was placed eighth in the overall standings across all the six trials.
Saurabh also won a silver medal in the 10m Air Pistol at the Grand Prix of Liberation 2023 in Pilsen, Czech Republic two months back.
Could this recent run of form be an indication that Saurabh had indeed managed to catch a new wave, just not in time for this year's biggest events?
Not bothered by Tokyo defeat
Is the Tokyo Olympics saga still haunting him? For any 20-year-old, an occasion like Tokyo can be overwhelming, especially when expectations are high.
Saurabh said, "The Tokyo Olympics was the same for me, just like another competition. I have left that performance in the past. I don't think more about bigger tournaments, I move on quickly from the results."
The dip in form he suffered since then do not support his point, but Saurabh the stoic is determined to see the end of this battle - with the same stoicism with which he had trained with bricks tied to his wrists in his rural academy in Meerut when he started out.
Saurabh's counterpart Manu Bhaker, another youngster who suffered in Tokyo, has slowly and steadily crawled her way back and will feature in both World Championships and Asian Games.
For shooting fans, the wait for the return of the shooting prodigy, who was once set to conquer the world, continues.