Heena Sidhu remarked that staying visible in shooting is difficult in a country like India, where cricket is the dominant sport. The 29-year-old, recently nominated for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, has also noted that athletes were like the army as both held ‘duty first’ as their prime attitude.
Despite shooting at the top level for close to a decade, Heena was only recently nominated for India’s highest sporting honour. Still, being merely considered is an honour in itself for her. The 29-year-old received another award – the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award – given by the Punjab government. However, the shooter is not fond of the inequality in prize money handed out to sportspersons by various state governments.
“Every athlete looks for this recognition. It’s sort of like the Param Vir Chakra for us. I always say that athletes and armed forces have the same attitudes – duty first, the fighting spirit – everything for the nation. So, when you receive something back from the nation, you don’t feel invisible. Otherwise, in a sport like shooting, which is not cricket, staying visible becomes difficult. So, it is special,” Heena told TNN, reported TOI
“There has to be a certain uniformity when it comes to state governments awarding their athletes for their medal wins. Look at Bengal. They gave Rs. 10 lakh to the girl who won (Asian Games) gold in heptathlon (Swapna Barman). I felt so bad because that was the first medal for that sport for India in Asian Games. On the other hand, in Haryana, they are giving crores left, right, and centre. When you see your colleagues winning the same medals and their life is set while you are still struggling for bread and butter, it’s not right,” she said.
Of late, Heena is also facing some changes to the dynamics in her sport. With teenagers like Manu Bhaker and Esha Singh giving seasoned veterans a tough fight, the former world no.1 was asked if they forced her to up her game.
“Yes, because of course there is more competition. And no, because my competition has always been outside of India. If you just think of the numbers – what number you need to shoot to be the best in the world – then whatever scores you are seeing in India don’t even count. If you start thinking about names that she is doing better than me or she is challenging me, then you are going in the wrong direction. You aren’t concentrating on what you need to do. You’re not concentrating on shooting. You are concentrating on other people,” Heena added.
Heena had won the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 10m air pistol event.