Training sessions with coach is all that skeet shooter Ganemat Sekhon wants
A file image of Ganemat Sekhon.|
Skeet shooting is a bit complex; unlike other forms of shooting events, it involves a lot of intricate rules which might be hard to understand. For the unversed, two machines at different heights throw a series of 25 targets from different stations in a specific order.
A total of eight stations fire targets -- either singles or in pairs -- and a total of five such series is played. Then the top six shooters shoot an additional round, to decide the winner.
Italy and the USA maintain a stronghold over this discipline since time immemorial while India is still struggling to produce top-notch skeet shooters. Without getting into the 'why' of the situation, 20-year-old Ganemat Sekhon has been the leading light in skeet in India, but needs the best training with world-class coaches, to be the best. For now, without a coach for almost two years, Sekhon has struck silver at the Nationals in Patiala and was narrowly pipped by Darshana Rathore in the final.
Despite being her home range, Sekhon believes that it did not add to her advantage, and could not get enough time to train. "Just a touch disappointed that I lost out on the gold, as it wasn't my best performance in the final. I was not getting enough time to train, maybe two-three rounds at the max. Also, the weather played its part too, at the time of the final it wasn't very sunny or wasn't very dark. So changing the lenses was very tricky. From the right side, the sun was in my face, and from the left it was dark.
"I had to adjust to the timings which were given to me, while other shooters trained there too. I wouldn't get a fixed time train -- it would either be in the morning or the evening, which meant that I had to skip my gym sessions too so that I could be in time for the training in Patiala. So there was no home advantage for me in Patiala," Sekhon told SportsCafe in an exclusive interaction.
A month prior to the Nationals, she had won a gold and silver at the Junior World Championship in Lima, Peru -- a first for India in skeet. Back in 2018, Sekhon became the first-ever Indian woman skeet shooter to win a medal (bronze) in a junior ISSF World Cup. She went on to bag a bronze medal in the ISSF World Cup in Delhi earlier in March this year, which also made her the first Indian senior skeet shooter to achieve the feat. All this, when she took up the sport at the age of 15.
"My father always wanted me to play a sport, being an athlete himself. But it was really difficult for me to find something I was really good at. I tried pistol shooting at school, but didn't like it that much. But with skeet, things just fell in place. It was something I really enjoyed doing and was good at it too. Surprisingly, this was the first time I tried shotgun.
Notwithstanding her stupendous achievements in the past, Sekhon is a tad bit worried over the non-availability of her Italian coach Piero Genga. Still winning medals is great, but it is something that cannot be sustained for long, and Sekhon knows that well. Here, it must be made clear that unlike pistol and rifle shooting coaches -- which we have in abundance in the country -- it is tough to find a coach for skeet shooting, who has the necessary skill set to train the Indians, which could help them get better.
"We (the Indian team) don't have a coach for the last two years, which makes it really tough for shooters like me to improve. It is just the case of senior shooters helping us out if they happen to be on the range. So we did have an Italian coach, but he too left soon due to some issues. Even though I continued to be with him, covid disrupted my plans and hasn't been able to train with him since. It gets very hard to train over the phone only, and plan everything. Even before the Nationals, I wanted to go and train in Italy but didn't get permission for it. Hopefully, I can go there soon and train.
"One of the other problems is, we haven't had camps in two years. So when we had the Italian coach, he would recommend players to take them to his range and train. That would really help us. But we have not been getting any camps abroad," Sekhon added.
But in India, as is always the case, every athlete wants to represent the country at the Olympics, and world no.25 Sekhon is dreaming big for the 2024 Paris Games already. In the buildup to Paris, 2022 would play a crucial role with the Asian Games lined up.
"With the resources at disposal, I have been training the best I could. The target is a medal at the Asian Games, which could give me the confidence to earn the ticket to Paris 2024. Hopefully, by the time we reach there, a lot of shooting ranges for skeet in the country will come up, which would help budding players like me to achieve their dreams,” Sekhon concluded.