By Harihar Swarup
Seven years ago, a 11-year old boy in Jaipur excitedly watched Apurvi Chandela in her shooting gear train at the Jagatpura range. As India’s top woman rifle shooter, Chandela was the new sporting star in the city and inspiring for budding shooters, Divyanath Panwar was among them.
Panwar fondly recalls the moment that left him star-stuck in 2013, when Chandela put the medal around his neck in one of his podium finishes.
“She was very famous in Jaipur and for me get met a medal from her was huge. I had just starting shooting and it was state tournament but that was big moment for me”, says Panwar. “She is my inspiration. She would be calm and focused in the running and I wanted to be like that”.
Panwar is since taken rapid strides and will be going for his fist Olympic with Chandela as team mate. At 18 he is India’s top rifle shooter—he was ranked world’s number one till a few month’s ago- and considered a medal contender at the Tokyo Olympic. “After coming to the senior team, we have become friends. I talk to her not only about my shooting but also personal life and we share good moments.”
Panwar is among a bunch of teenage shooting prodigies that broke through after the 2016 Rio Olympics; the rise of new talent is a big reason why India is being regarded as an emerging powerhouse in the sport. The Tokyo Olympics will be the ultimate testing ground for India’s record shooting squad of 15.
After his early stint in Jaipur, Panwar shifted to Delhi in 2016 and started to train under coach and former shooter Deepak Kumar Dubey. In a short span, Panwar’s growth was impressive. In the 2017 senior nationals, he won nine medals across categories, including gold in the 10m air rifle junior championship. Soon he was beating big names in the selection trials.
The 2018 Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany was a game-changer. Panwar, Hriday Hazarika and Sahu Tushar Mane notched up a junior world record score in the team competition. He won gold in the mixed team event with another emerging talent—Elavenil Valarivan. They will pair up in the mixed event in Tokyo.
“When I competed at the 2018 Junior World Cup I never thought about the Tokyo Olympics. My shooting was still not at that level and mentally I wasn’t prepared. Gradually, the scores started getting better, and when I was selected for the senior team in 2019, there was a lot of talk among shooters about winning the Olympic quota. It was then that I thought I have the ability to win an Olympic quota,” says Panwar.
He sealed a quota spot in air rifle at the 2019 Beijing World Cup with a silver medal, following it up with gold in the World Cup Finals in Putian, China.
Coach Dubey says Panwar has the right blend of a shooter’s personality and a teenager’s carefree attitude. “He is very focused in the range and during training, he is totally immersed in shooting,” he says.
In his free time, he plays the guitar and reads the Bhagavad Gita for inspiration.
“Shooting is a peaceful sport. You have to be very calm. It tests your temperament. If you are bit aggressive, the entire match can go wrong. So, it translates into personal life also. You have to take quick decisions in shooting and it helps in life as well.
“I am excited to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Every day I visualise every small thing—that I am standing on the lane in Tokyo and shooting.” (IPA Service)