Gagan Narang, one of India’s best shooters since 2000, stormed to fame during the 2012 London Olympics when he claimed a bronze medal in the men’s 10m air rifle event. But his contribution towards Indian shooting goes way beyond that, making him a highly influential figure overall.
Despite hailing from a Haryana-based Punjabi family, Gagan was born in Chennai in 1983. His father was the chief manager of Air India, and due to his father's job, Gagan was brought up in Hyderabad. He completed his higher studies at Osmania University, but it was in his childhood years that Gagan developed an inclination towards shooting after his father presented him with an air pistol when he was 14.
With the tool at his disposal, the youngster started sharpening his skills in the backyard of his home in Begumpet.
Not long after preparing for tournaments, Gagan got a break during the 2003 Afro Asian Games in Hyderabad, where he won a gold medal in the men’s 10m air rifle competition. His career had taken off, and the momentum eventually landed him on a flight to Athens for the 2004 Olympics.
However, things didn't quite go as expected and he crashed out before the final round in Greece.
Establishing himself at the top level
The 2004 Olympics was a setback from which Gagan learned a few lessons, and he made a strong comeback at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. His gunshots made headlines as Gagan claimed four gold medals Down Under, in two individual and as many team events. Three bronze medals at the 2006 Doha Asian Games were the silver lining to a glorious year.
All roads led to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the odds were stacked in favor of Gagan to win a medal in his staple 10m air rifle event. However, stage fright played spoilsport as Narang finished at the 9th position overall.
Meanwhile, his compatriot Abhinav Bindra claimed the top prize in the same event and created history by becoming the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics. For Narang, the four-year drill had to be repeated once again. But he was not one to give up.
The shooter recreated identical records by winning four gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, thus re-kindling hopes of a medal win at the biggest sporting spectacle in London in two years' time. Meanwhile, a couple of silver medals at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games escalated his stature as one of the most successful sportsmen in India. With loads of accolades and experience, the Indian resumed his hunt for an elusive Olympic medal.
2012 London Olympics glory
In London, Gagan breezed past the qualifying rounds to book a slot in the final as the third-placed candidate, with an accumulation of 598 points, one short of Romania’s Alin Moldoveanu. All eyes were on the "Royal Artillery Barracks" as eight shooters took center stage for the penultimate showdown.
After 10 rounds of edge-of-the-seat action, Narang, with an accumulation of 701.1, narrowly missed out on a silver medal to Italy’s Niccolo Campriani (701.5), but the stellar display did fetch him a bronze medal at the Olympics. Narang became a national hero as he opened the medal counter for India at the 2012 London Games.
After a couple of medal-winning performances at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a dull show at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Gagan Narang called it quits. However, he has never been detached from the sport, helping the upcoming stars with the valuable experience he had gained over the course of his career.
The Gagan Narang-initiated 'Gun for Glory' academy, with centers across the country, has been a revolutionary move by the Olympian. Elavenil Valarivan, who was nurtured in the setup, is now not only a world champion, but is also one of India’s medal prospects at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.