Asian Games 2014: Jitu Steals Limelight, but Shweta Doesn't Mind
Shooters led India's medal hunt on the opening day of 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, where pistol-shooter Jitu Rai won India's first gold in the 50m event, shortly after Shweta Chaudhry opened India's account with a bronze in the 10m Women's Pistol event.
Shweta Chaudhry sits on the floor outside the athletes' lounge at the Ongeyong Shooting Centre in Incheon, trying to connect the Wifi on her cellphone. It's been more than two hours since she won a bronze medal in the Women's 10m Air Pistol event, but Shweta hasn't been able to contact anyone in her family back in Faridabad. (More from Asian Games)
Jitu Rai, fresh off his 50m pistol gold, passes by his teammate, for his post match dope test, when Shweta shouts out jokingly, "Arey gold jeet liya aapne, bas sab limelight cheen lee mere se!" (You won the gold and stole all the limelight away from me). "He's had a great year, and just refuses to stop. But for me, this is a huge moment. I know it's a bronze, but it's my biggest achievement in an individual event", says Shweta. (Day 1 Highlights)
The win is even more special for Shweta as she wasn't shooting with her regular weapon. "My gun wasn't cleared at customs when we arrived, there was some confusion with the serial numbers. I got it back only this morning, and didn't want to take a chance with it. You never know what customs people do with your equipment", says Shweta. She had just one round of practice of 30 shots a day before her competition with her spare pistol.
With former World No. 1 Heena Sidhu, and 16-year-old Commonwealth Games silver medallist Malaika Goel, shooting in the same event, Shweta's name was never in the reckoning. But winning a medal ahead of her teammates doesn't mean much to Shweta. "It's a medal for India, that's what matters. It's not like I was competing with Heena or Malaika".
A shoulder injury that she sustained towards the end of 2012 kept the 28-year-old out of action. "I've been shooting for almost sixteen years now. For a large part of that I didn't know what specific exercises and physiotherapy was needed for pistol shooters. So I just did normal exercises and workout, and ended up leaving my scalpel muscles, which are the most important for shooters, completely dead", she says. It took her a year to recover. Shweta calls her performance in Incheon her "comeback".
Her husband, Prashant Singh, also her personal coach, has been Shweta's support system through this. "When I have a bad day at the range, I just come back and chew his brains, he really has no option but to listen to me", she says. "But he's been there through thick and thin, and this medal is for him, and the rest of my family members."
After hours of trying, Shweta has finally managed to speak with her family members, and leaves the range with content on her face. "I am glad mine was India's first medal here in Incheon. But the job's obviously not done", she says. Shweta will be a part of India's cheering squad now, for the rest of the shooting events.