Indian shooter Vijay Kumar, who claimed the silver in the men's 25m rapid fire pistol event, was one of six athletes from the nation to win a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Born to an Army man, Vijay Kumar was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, Banku Ram. The obsession with guns landed him with shooting as a career option. Having joined the Indian Army in 2001, he went up the ranks gradually from a 'sepoy' to a 'havildar' to a 'naib subedar'.
It was in 2006 that shooting took center stage in his life, fast-tracking him to become one of India’s greatest athletes.
As we approach the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, here's an in-depth look at the life of the shooter from Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, who made the nation proud nine years ago.
Vijay Kumar bagged two gold medals in 25-meter rapid fire pistol event and the pairs at the 2006 Commonwealth Games that shot him to stardom. It was in the same year that Vijay claimed a bronze medal at the Asian Games in his pet 25-meter rapid fire pistol event and earned himself an Arjuna Award. The life-changing year set the tone for the rest of his shooting career.
Vijay Kumar then went on to claim four medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, which included three gold medals across two individual and two team events.
While he was not a part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics owing to chickenpox, the grand success in his own backyard automatically put him in contention for a berth at the 2012 London Games.
2012 London Olympics glory
Vijay qualified for the 2012 London Olympics via a clinical performance at the 2011 ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning. While his entry was never much hyped, Vijay was part of the pack that was expected to shine at the Games.
Vijay Kumar finished in fourth place in the qualifiers in men's 25m rapid fire pistol event, qualifying for the final round. It was always a daunting task for him to outclass his opponents from countries like Cuba, China, Russia and Germany, but Vijay was up for it.
With an accumulated score of 30, the shooter from Himachal Pradesh stormed to a second-place finish in the event, leaving behind China’s Ding Feng by a 3-point margin. Cuba’s Leuris Pupo claimed the top honors in that category with an Olympic Games and World Record, striking a count of 34.
Success at the 2012 London Olympics made Vijay Kumar an overnight sensation as the nation completed its best-ever outing at the Games with six podium finishes.
Despite the stellar outing, the 35-year-old attributed the success of Indian shooters to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who inspired the nation with a silver medal in the double trap event at the 2004 Athens Games.
Vijay Kumar's career after the Olympic medal
Vijay Kumar's last major contribution to the Indian contingent was during the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, where he won a silver medal in the 25m centre fire pistol team event. Unfortunately, we never got to see much of him since then.
The shooter ultimately retired from the Army in 2017 after 15 years of service, and finished his bachelor’s degree Business Administration from Manav Rachna University in Faridabad. We might not see him regularly at events or writing columns, but his contributions towards Indian shooting cannot be ignored.