The 40-year-old Rajput, who will be representing India in the 50m Rifle 3 Position event in Tokyo and others have received guidelines and strict safety protocols from the NRAI, and he is adhering to those.
The Tokyo Olympics will be Rajput’s third Olympic appearance. He represented India at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games before this. He featured in two events in Beijing – 50 m rifle prone (finished 26th with 591 points) and 50 m rifle 3 positions (finished 26th with 1162 points). In 2012 in London, Rajput scored 1161 and finished 26th in the 50 m rifle 3 positions event.
With the Tokyo Olympics now around the corner, TimesofIndia.com caught up with the veteran shooter to talk about his training in Croatia, his Tokyo plans, his third Olympic appearance, and much more…
How is the training going in Croatia? What changes in training or practice have you incorporated to gear up for the Tokyo Games?
Training is going well. We are completely focused on training. There are no distractions. This tour has benefited us immensely. The weather is good. The kind of climate that is here now, we will be getting the same in the Tokyo 50M open range. The 50M range here is also similar to the Tokyo range. There is a lot of wind here, so I am trying to understand the wind conditions. The Zagreb range is considered one of the toughest in the world because of the wind factor. So, practicing here increases the difficulty level. We have been trying to adapt to that and are getting better at it, so all this should help us in Tokyo.
@sanjeevrajput1 & #tejaswinisawant practice the Kneeling Postion of 50M 3-Positions #shooting under challenging clo… https://t.co/gKvpB3O623
— NRAI (@OfficialNRAI) 1623943373000
What are the Covid-19 safety protocols that you are following in Zagreb?
NRAI has told us to follow the local rules here. We are supposed to only take off our masks inside the room as much as possible. Put on our masks in any closed environment like lifts, cars, buses, or any crowded place. We have been told not to touch things like buttons. We have also been strictly instructed to not have food inside the restaurant. So, we order it from the hotel mostly or from an Indian restaurant here.
Tokyo will be your third Olympic appearance. How would you define Olympic pressure?
It could have also been my fourth. Pressure? I believe it depends on how prepared you are for the challenge. So, if I am ready for it, there is no question of pressure. I believe I am ready for the Olympics, so I will just go for it.
At 40, can Sanjeev Rajput win an Olympic medal?
The simple answer to that – in shooting, age is irrelevant. Even if you see most Olympic medalists in modern days are on the wrong side of 30 and closer to 40. I think Warren Potent (Australian shooter) once won a medal when he was 50+. Even in this World Cup (in Croatia), someone like Rajmond Debevec (58 year old Slovenian shooter), has played the finals.
Image credit: Sanjeev Rajput’s Twitter handle
How has the sport of shooting changed from when you first began competing to now? What are the big changes you have noticed?
There have been lots of changes in shooting, particularly in India. At one time, 2-3 people in the national squad used to play the whole year round. Now we have national selection trials before every big event practically. Before 2012, there was no decimal scoring. Because of that, now the events have changed drastically, both technically and tactically. Shooters are far more accurate now. In 2005-06, only 2-3 shooters used to shoot 600/600 in Air Rifle. Nowadays in the full ring, at least 25 people hit 600. Also, they have done away with the 50m Prone event, which was very popular. They now have Mixed team events. Jacket and Trouser rules are more specified now.
What is your favourite Olympic memory?
2008 Beijing Olympics, cheering for Abhinav Bindra from the stands, was the most memorable moment.
Who is your favourite pick for a medal in Tokyo among the Indian shooters?
Everyone is capable of winning a medal right now. What happens on that day, will define the person. All the Indian shooters here are not inferior to anyone in the world today. But you see, in decimal scoring, the margins become so fine nowadays. Even in this World Cup (in Croatia) in the Mixed team we missed the bronze shot because of one lesser inner-ring.
Image credit: Sanjeev Rajput’s Twitter handle
How many medals, according to you, will India win in Tokyo?
I am very bad with predictions, but I think we will win a handful of medals.
The Indian reserve shooters are not in Croatia with the rest of the contingent. What will be their role if they are not travelling with the main squad?
I feel reserve shooters have to be kept separately because of the Covid situation. Say, if one of us gets sick here, the entire squad is directly impacted. So, how can we keep our second line also among us? I believe it is a very well-thought-out step by the NRAI.