Pune shooter Harshwardhan Yadav leaves for ‘ rapid ’ rise

PUNE: If Pune’s Harshwardhan Yadav was asked two years ago about Vijay Kumar, he probably wouldn’t have any clue about the London Games silver medallist.

He was just 12 and shooting was only about playing with toy guns.

At 14, the pistol shooter has not just learnt the nuances of the sport, but has also left the Olympic medallist behind in the latter’s pet event — 25m rapid fire — not once, but twice, in the national selection trials last month.

Pune’s Harshwardhan, who took up shooting ‘accidentally’, will now participate in the Khelo India Youth Games at his ‘home’ range at Balewadi. Harshwardhan took up shooting on Gun For Glory director and former national coach Pawan Singh’s suggestion.

“My elder brother Dhananjay wanted to take up shooting, so we went to the academy for his admission. I was just sitting in the academy office when Pawan sir told me that I can do well in the sport,” Harshwardhan told TOI.

Harshwardhan’s father Mahanand, who was a national-level wrestler, said: “We first thought he (Pawan) was saying just to add a student, but he soon started shooting good scores and qualified for the nationals in the first year.”

Although Pawan had not seen Harshwardhan holding a pistol, the former national coach said it was the youngster’s spark that attracted him. “I found Harshwardhan was very observant. He was noticing small details during our conversation, and I happened to notice that. His body language was also very positive. Good observation and positive body language are traits of a good shooter,” Pawan said.

Harshwardhan started with sports pistol initially, but was always inclined towards rapid fire. “I used to fire 4-5 rounds when my coach was not around. I always liked shooting rapid. Once I qualified for the Nationals in 2017, sir allowed me to take up rapid,” the shooter said.

Rapid fire is one of the toughest events in shooting as the shooteres have to fire a series of five shots in 8, 6 and 4 seconds during the competition. While the 8 and 6 seconds series are generally easy, even the senior shooters fret over the 4-second series.

However, it is Harshwardhan’s favourite part of the match. “I love the rush, especially in the final,” the Mar Ivanios Convent high school’s standard 9 student said.

While Harshwardhan, a resident of Sanghvi, stood first in the senior Trial 1 with a final score of 29, Vijay Kumar had failed to feature in the topsix shooters. In Trial 2, the Pune boy shot better, but had to finish second with a score of 30, behind Haryana’s Adarsh Singh (33). Vijay was sixth with 10. “I never get nervous while shooting with seniors. I have to focus on my rhythm and there is hardly any time to think about what others are doing,” he said.

Harshwardhan knows that ‘Khelo’ contest will be anything but a cakewalk with 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anish and current national champion Adarsh in fray. “But I will shoot my best,” said the shooter, who idolizes three-time Olympics Champ Ralf Schuman of Germany.