KOLKATA: She was just seven years old but Mehuli Ghosh vividly remembers Abhinav Bindra‘s historic gold medal-winning feat in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was one of those moments that has defined her career as the 17-year-old Mehuli has emerged as the country’s top woman shooter in the 10-metre air rifle, the same event where Bindra bagged India’s lone individual Olympic gold.
“It’s the biggest sporting achievement,” she was told as Mehuli took up shooting as a career after indulging in the pastime of shooting at balloons in fairs.
But hurdles came her way, and one of them was traumatic that literally shook the small town girl from Baidyabati, about 40 kilometres from Kolkata.
During her early days at Serampore Rifle Club, her misfired shot hit an employee and she was ‘blacklisted’ and even faced threats of police complaints against her.
It left her shaken but Mehuli did not give up and got a mentor in Joydeep Karmakar and joined the London Olympian shooter’s academy at the New Town School in Rajarhat, which meant a travel time of about five hours daily in local trains with her heavy equipment.
“Sometime I reach home around 11.30pm but I don’t feel tired. Shooting has become part of me. I can’t live without shooting,” Mehuli told PTI in an interview, adding that this has been her daily routine for four and a half years.
There were financial hurdles but Ghosh family did not budge and her father, a temporary employee in cooperative, arranged loan to buy her the rifle costing Rs 2 lakh.
The Youth Olympics-bound shooter Mehuli says she keeps daydreaming about standing on the podium with the National Anthem in the background.
“I keep daydreaming about it – me winning a World Cup gold on the podium, it gives goosebumps,” Mehuli said.
“It was during a Nationals in Delhi I had a chance to meet Bindra but I was very young and was in awe of him. I just took a photo with him.”
Already number one at junior and youth level, Mehuli has now emerged as a strong contender to be named in the Indian squad for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in less than three months’ time.
Her peers at senior level are Apurvi Chandela and Anjum Moudgil as one among the three will be named for the Gold Coast-bound squad.
“It’s okay, if I don’t make it. There will be another chance. I just have to keep competing, and I’m my biggest competitor,” Mehuli says with utmost maturity.
In fact, her plate is full for 2018, and a plan B is ready too in case she does not make the CWG-bound squad.
Mehuli will compete in the World Cup in March and will look to bag an Olympic quota at the World Championship in Changwon, Korea from August 31-September 15.
Later this year she’s slated to compete at the third Youth Olympics, Buenos Aires from October 6-18 — she bagged the quota for that by winning the Asian Airgun Championship in Japan in December 9.
Mehuli also emerged as the best rifle shooter with eight gold and three bronze for a total of 11 medals at the National Shooting in Thiruvananthapuram.
Youth Olympics will be the biggest stage for her career but Mehuli is not thinking about it much.
“I have almost zero expectations. I feel if you go with a lot of expectations, the pressure of it comes to you. I want to go there with a free mind and will take it how it comes. The key is to stay calm and composed,” Mehuli said.
Things have started getting better, financially too after Olympic Gold Quest came to support her.
“Now things are better and the New Town School too has offered to arrange my accommodation in the city. I may shift to Kolkata in a months’ time.”
Mehuli credits her coach Karmakar for everything.
“Joydeep Sir keeps guiding me all the time. She deserves a lot of credit. He keeps motivating me and never lets my confidence down.”
For Karmakar, it was a like a challenge to take up Mehuli into her academy as she was going through a “traumatic phase” after the misfiring incident.
“The first task was to make her mentally stable so I doubled up as psychologist. And she’s lived up to the expectations and shown a phenomenal rise,” said Karmakar, citing example of her nine medals in Pune Nationals in 2016.
“It’s about smart planning and progressing and I’m sure she has a long way to go,” Karmakar said.
Source : timesofindia