Ace shooter Gagan Narang has been flying the Indian Tricolour high for over a decade now. From winning World Cup medals to climbing to the pinnacle of the rankings to grabbing an Olympic medal – the 32-year-old has achieved it all. He will once again be in contention at the 2016 Rio Olympics in less than six months’ time.
Here’s everything you need to know about India’s marquee shooter:
1. Gagan Narang was born in Chennai on 6th May 1983 to Bhimsen Narang and Amarjit in a Punjabi Arora family. His family, later on, shifted to Hyderabad where he was raised. His love for shooting was born when a six-year-old Gagan held the gun for the first time at the Chennai Marina Beach carnival to shoot balloons.
2. He first came into prominence at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games where he clinched the gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Rifle in front of his home crowd. Two years later, he added the Asian Championships gold medal in the same category as well.
3. 2006 was the first big year of Gagan’s career as he lay his hands on his first World Cup medal and that too, a gold at Guangzhou. He carried his impeccable form to the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games and captured four gold medals and three bronze at the two meets respectively. His consistency rewarded him with the numero uno ranking as well.
4. Gagan achieved another first in 2008 as he topped the podium in 10m Air Rifle at the elite ISSF World Cup Final in Bangkok. That event will remain etched in Narang’s memory forever as he came up with an astonishing performance and nailed a perfect 600/600 score in the qualification round. It made him only the third shooter in the world to equal the world record at that time. This came after he suffered a heartbreak at the Beijing Olympics where he failed to advance to the finals in each of the three events he took part in.
5. Gagan’s mastery over the 50m Rifle 3 Positions event brought him the gold medal in it at the ISSF Changwon World Cup in 2009. That underlined his versatility even further.
6. Narang brought a lot of joy to his home fans with an impressive display at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. He had a rich haul of four gold medals from the event and then followed it up with two silver medals at the Guangzhou Asian Games.
7. The biggest moment of his career came in 2012 when he grabbed the bronze medal in 10m Air Rifle at the London Olympics with a total score of 701.1. After an unsuccessful campaign at two straight Olympic Games, Gagan showed a lot of poise to finally enter the medal bracket, which was long expected of him. It was India’s first medal at the 2012 Games.
“It is like a huge stone is off my chest. I had not managed to qualify for the finals in the last two Olympics and that was really painful, But now I am happy to have finally won an Olympic medal,” he said after the feat.
8. Persistent neck and shoulder injuries made his shooting in 10m Air Rifle difficult and he was forced to concentrate on the 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle three positions. Gagan excelled even in that as he picked up the silver medal in 50m Rifle Prone and the bronze in 50m Rifle 3 Positions at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
9. In May 2015, Narang booked his Olympic spot once more as he secured the bronze in the 50m Rifle Prone Event at the ISSF World Cup at Fort Benning, USA.
10. His latest accomplishment is a rich haul of six medals from the recently-concluded South Asian Games which includes three team gold medals. Gagan also stole the limelight during the qualifications of the Men’s 50m Rifle Prone event where he broke the national record with a score of 628.9.
Role model is Muhammad Ali
1. Gagan considers the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali as his role model. In 2008, the day he nailed the perfect score of 600/600, he admitted that the US President Barack Obama was his source of inspiration.
2. Besides shooting, he has a keen interest in other sports such as cricket, tennis, table tennis and kabaddi. His favourite sportspersons are Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher.
3. Gagan’s favourite film is The Pursuit of Happyness and his favourite movie stars are Oscar winners, Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz.
4. The 32-year-old loves Chinese cuisine and his most preferred holiday destination is Langkawi in Malaysia.
5. He is employed with Air India as an Assistant Manager and was the first athlete to be supported by the Not-for-Profit organization Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) in 2008.
6. After achieving success at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, when many kids and their parents asked him how to take up shooting, Gagan was encouraged to set up the ‘Gun For Glory’ Shooting Academy. Headquartered in Pune, it has opened branches in Secunderabad and Mumbai. Plans have been chalked up for a total of ten centres across the country.Published 23 Feb 2016, 10:39 IST