After clinching the gold medal in the 25m pistol event at the Junior World Championship in Lima (Peru), 14-year-old Naamya Kapoor called her parents Praveen and Gunjan.
It was an apt time for the mother to recall how Naamya took up shooting.
“Before she started shooting at the age of nine, Naamya would never take anything seriously. She would easily get bored. When she started shooting, we thought she would leave this too. But after some time, she urged her father to get her a new pistol,” Gunjan told The Indian Express.
On Monday in the Peruvian capital, the youngster made the finals in sixth spot with a score of 584 as compatriot Manu Bhaker topped the qualification with a score of 587. Naamya shot a score of 288 in precision stage followed by 292 in rapid stage, including 99 out of 100 in the first series of the latter. In the final, Naamya only lost the lead once in the elimination stage before coming back in the lead, bouncing back to win the gold medal.
A young Naamya was introduced to the sport after seeing her elder sister Khushi pursuing it at Delhi’s Manav Sthali School. It was on the insistence of coach Sabir Khan at the Sports Craft Academy that Naamya would start competing in 10m pistol in 2016 and the youngster would shoot a score of 373 out of 400 in the Delhi State Shooting Championship within three years. Khan was impressed by the concentration and muscle strength of the chubby kid. “We initially started dry practice without the pistol in sitting position and once she started shooting with pistol, her scores were impressive for her age. We also worked on making her shoot with focus on sights and not on the target paper,” remembers Khan.
With the minimum age of shooters competing in national championships set at 12 years, it was only in 2019 that Naamya got her chance to compete in Bhopal. It was also the year when she made a switch to train under coach Ankit Sharma at Aim Shooting Academy in Faridabad. The youngster would finish 28th in the senior category of the 25m pistol event out of a total of 151 shooters and 12th among juniors with a score of 566, missing the final by a single shot.
Shifting to train under Sharma would also mean that Naamya would travel more than 40 Kms to Faridabad daily from her residence at Bali Nagar in Delhi, apart from travelling to the Karni Singh Shooting Ranges for practising for the 25m event.
After managing a score of 566 at the 2019 nationals, she would soon shoot scores in the range of 575-585 in practice. “The main difference between 10m air pistol and 25m pistol events is the adjustment to the commands and the rapid duelling format. So, we worked first on getting Naamya adjusted to the timing of three seconds per shot and her lifting technique at a 45-degree angle. To make her adjust to the five successive shots required in the format, a lot of fine-tuning in her training – including trigger movement – was required. But all this happened with consistent focus on the precision stage too,” says Sharma.
The Delhi youngster, whose father is a maternal cousin of renowned shooter Sanjeev Rajput, and the Olympian has also aided Naamya’s development. She had met Rajput on September 15. He has been keeping a watch on Naamya’s shooting career since the start, and has been liberal with tips. “Both Naamya and elder sister Khushi have very good concentration. Initially, I would tell Naamya about various mental conditioning techniques required for match practice and actual matches. I also told her to play some brain simulation video games to develop the right and left- brain movements apart from meditation. Seeing her do well also motivates me but adjusting to the senior level will be the main challenge for her,” says Rajput.
Prior to the Junior World Championships, the Delhi youngster shot a score of 583 to be placed second behind Bhaker in the trials for the tournament.
“Naamya was shooting scores close to 290 in precision and close to 292-293 in rapid stage in practice and she recovered well after a score of 288 in precision. Her biggest strength has been shooting without any fear and that’s what worked for her in the final, which included much experienced shooters like Manu Bhaker,” says Sharma.
Mother Gunjan knows how India’s youngest junior world champion in shooting unwinds herself after the finals, keeping away from the sport for some time. Irrespective of results, she always keeps a level head and never loses perspective. “Whatever happens in shooting, she never complains or becomes emotional,” she says.