Commonwealth Games 2018: From being a 'depressed' teenager to a CWG medallist, Mehuli Ghosh's journey
She was only 12 years of age when guns and bullets caught her fascination. Apparently, it was the prime-time television show, CID -- she was completely hooked on to it -- which piqued her interest.
Five years down the line, Mehuli Ghosh would go on to win two bronze medals at her first senior World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico and a silver medal at her first Commonwealth Games.
"Definitely, I'm very happy with my performance in Mexico. But it is just the start. I have to prepare for the next tournaments so that I can perform even better," she had told Sportskeeda over the phone after the World Cup, her voice filled with determination.
It was not what she said, but the way she said it -- that was the testimony to the fact that despite her recent success, her feet are firmly on the ground and her only focus is to improve. That's the kind of maturity the 17-year-old youngster from Serampore, West Bengal is showing already.
Still, in her teens, Mehuli might have already got a taste of being in the limelight but the journey has never been easy.
It was in 2015 that Mehuli joined Karmakar's newly-established shooting academy. But before that, even before her shooting career had taken wings, she had had to go through what was possibly the darkest days of her life.
The incident, which would remain as a scar in her career, happened in 2014. At that time, she was training at the Serampore Rifle Club. The scene unfolded exactly like a movie sequence. Mehuli, who was practising at the 50m range, misfired and the pellet, unfortunately, went on to hit a bystander.
Not only was she suspended by the club but the trauma was too much for the 14-year-old Mehuli to bear. When she approached other clubs, all of them rejected her application and consequently, she went into depression.
It was at the same time when former Olympian Joydeep Karmakar was setting up his academy and on coming to know about it, Mehuli would enrol herself there.
"When she joined us, there was despair, haplessness, depression in her eyes and her thought process was very negative because she was being rejected by everybody. There were some incidents also, which traumatised her and she was taking help of a counsellor. The situation was really grim. She did not even speak to me much at that time," recalled Karmakar.
"Our chief coach, Bibaswan Ganguly, had a talk with Mehuli and her parents also had a meeting with us. We decided to take it up as a challenge," he added.
She had to travel four hours every day from her home in Baidyabati to the academy but that did not deter her one bit. However, despite her hard work, it took some time for Mehuli to get back on her feet.
"It was much later, towards the end of 2015, she started showing signs of progress. We were working on her technical side and the feedback we were receiving were all positive. The way Mehuli was grasping on to whatever we were telling her in training was very mature for someone her age. That's when I first realised that it is getting serious," Karmakar said, "At that time, I had predicted that within six months, she is going to make all sorts of headlines."
True to his predictions, the young girl indeed took six months to break through. At the 2016 National Championships, she went on to bag a whopping record nine medals, which included two golds in one go. The next year, she would bag 11 medals, of which eight were gold, at the Nationals.
Maybe, it was fate that put them together, maybe it was destiny. But since, then it has all worked out well for both Mehuli and Karmakar.
"The major challenge was to mould her. It was not about shooting, it was moulding her mental set up. To instil in her that belief in the process, to encourage her to dream that she can make it big, I think, that was the toughest part," Karmakar asserted. "From being a depressed athlete to a normal athlete to a motivated athlete, it's been some journey for her."
"The main thing was belief. Both Bibaswan sir and Joydeep sir believed in me. That was the most important thing. They were always around, helping me whenever I needed anything, supporting me throughout and that's how it all started," Mehuli said on her turn-around.
"Of course, there have been a few changes in the way she looks at the mental aspect of the sport. Because, with the recent success, the expectations have risen as well. Every one who is meeting her is saying, 'We're expecting a gold medal. That creates a huge pressure," Karmakar said.
"The things is that, if you want to avoid the pressure, it will never work out. You've to go through that pressure. The sooner you realise that there will be pressure and it has got nothing to do with your performance, the better it will be for you. This is what I have told her. If she continues to do what she is doing and if she is honest, then nothing can stop her," Karmakar concluded.