For the first time since 2016, when Meghana Sajjanar won the unique combined men’s and women’s Lakshya Cup Invitational, there was a female champion at Navi Mumbai shooting range in Karnala.
Some of the best names – of both sexes – in the 10 meter air rifle competed on Christmas Day, including men’s world champion Rudranksh Patil. Finally, it was Orissa’s Shriyanka Sadangi who took gold – dominating from start to finish – with National Champion Yukthi Rajendra second after an all-girls final shoot-off. Vidit Jain took bronze.
Air rifle ace Anjali Bhagwat and pistol shooter Heena Sindhu have previously won the Champion of Champions, the most elite ISSF version of a combined event. But the Lakshya Cup is perhaps the only available platform for such a combined event in India, shot in the Olympic format – 60 elimination shots for the final knockout match. Shriyanka, 27, who has medaled in the 50m 3 positions at the World Cup, thought it was great to win, but no biggie to leave all the men in her wake.
“Women are shooting high scores all over the world in recent years. These matches against men are exciting. I just see it as accepting the challenge that you have to shoot better scores to win. Combined competition is a great concept,” said Shriyanka.
A series score of 106 is the new 104, as scores routinely hit the roof internationally. On a peach of a day ahead of her, Shriyanka shot a run of 106.1 and three others of 105 in qualifying, topping the Race to Eight with 631.4. Her elimination round would begin with a wobble, but once she settled down, she was back to shooting the big 10s and shrugging off anyone snapping at her heels. She would eventually win Yukthi 16-12, six years after finishing second. Good form, like Sunday’s, has to feel different.
“When you shoot well, you feel synchronized in the body. Hand-eye coordination is good. There’s a good flow in the shots,” she explained. ISSF events create a lot of noise, so having a DJ in the home is one of the most shocking features of target shooting. “If you’re shooting in the track, the sound doesn’t matter much. ISSF plays some songs in the background so often you never want to hear them outside!” she jokes.
All in mind
Consistency is what shooters strive for, Shriyanka adds, without constantly looking at the cards. “We just focus on technique, and if you shoot well, you know the right time to take a break. You don’t think too much about the shooting sequence. The only thing you can control is the single shot from the barrel,” she explains. “104 used to be a good card. Now you just focus on increasing the lower net (fewer to no 9s and smaller 10s),” she said.
Championship shooters don’t stick to horror shots. “We don’t respond to shots. It’s routine. It’s your own shot. Although a good shot is about a feeling, you can’t assign an emotion – happiness, sadness, anger, irritation – to every shot. You focus on the next one,” says Shriyanka.
Women’s air rifle is one of India’s most competitive events – also one in which an Olympic medal is highly coveted, and making the Indian team alone can be almighty difficult. “Yes, it is difficult to get into the team, everyone is going for it. I’m up for the challenge,” she says cheerfully.
When Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won India’s first shooting medal in 2004, a ‘catch them young’ Mission Olympic competition was started for army children. Shriyanka, whose father played Ranji Trophy for Services and Orissa, took the plunge and went for her first international in 2009. She shoots the 3P with equal enthusiasm, although it can be hard to get over both.
“No, but I think they are complementary. My status in 3P is very good and I have shot 100 series in very windy conditions on the Cairo range. So when I shot 100 at the Trivandrum Nationals, it was no surprise. Both events help each other,” she claims.
For a sport that excludes all noise and peripheral sights, beating four men in adjacent lanes may not be a problem and not even registered. For six years now, Shriyanka has had her eyes on the Lakshya trophy: that a bunch of men faded as she ran away by a margin of almost two points is just another Merry Christmas Day.