Known as a ‘hobby shooter’ in the initial days of his career, Olympic-bound Abhishek Verma says the bronze medal he won in the 2018 Asian Games gave him the belief that he can achieve much more as a marksman. A late bloomer, 31-year-old Verma won his first international medal — a bronze — in 10m air pistol in 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. He had a meteoric rise since then, winning gold in the World Cups in Beijing and Rio in 2019 to currently sit as world number one.
“I started shooting in 2015 at the age of 27. People called me hobby shooter. But after the Asian Games medal, I thought I can do something. Now I am going for the Olympics,” he said at a virtual media interaction arranged by the Sports Authority of India.
“Now also people asked me about starting late but I said age does not matter. You can succeed with hard work,” said Verma who will be a part of the 15-member Olympic-bound team to train in Croatia.
The team will leave for Croatia on May 11 on a chartered flight and take part in the European Championships and combined World Cup before flying from there to Tokyo for the Olympics which opens on July 23. Verma said he could not do proper training after the Delhi World Cup in March — where he won a bronze — and so he is looking forward to the Croatia trip.
“I am happy to be going to Zagreb, the situation is tough here. After the World Cup (in Delhi), I could not continue my training. So, my focus (in Croatia) would be on regular training.
“There is also the combined World Cup event in Croatia. That is an added advantage,” said Verma who is an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
He said he does not want to be distracted by the uncertainty around the happening of the Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am training with the thought that Olympics will go ahead. I focus on giving my best on every shot in every competition. At the same time, I am ready for any situation. Whatever external situation arises, I will adapt to that,” said Verma who has received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on April 27.
“Even in the World Cup here (in March), we had to make certain adjustments, like wearing masks. There were shields separating shooting lanes. It was awkward constantly having to remember to put on the mask. But we have to face it and adapt.”
Asked what aspect of his shooting he would look to improve upon, he said, “Earlier, I took 40 to 50 minutes to complete my shot. Now it is taking above one hour. I would look to do better in Croatia.”
He said he used to do dry practice for one hour during lockdown and two hours on average after that. “We need dry training to maintain trigger and grip rhythm and co-ordination. I did dry training on doors but not on target. It’s to do with muscle memory. I can do dry practice with dumb bells. I do a lot of balancing work and training to build physical strength.”
On being away from home for three months, Verma said, “There may be some tension thinking about my family members but I have discussed with them.
“My priority is Olympics and they know it.” He also said coaches will play an important role in the next three months.
“There is little time for adjustment if there is any need for that. Coaches know what are the drawbacks of his shooters and they can rectify them quickly.”
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