Shriyanka Sadangi has achieved several accolades over her decade-long career. Having bagged numerous medals in national as well as international events, the Odisha girl has spearheaded the shooting team for India.
In 2014, she was handed Odisha's prestigious sports award 'Ekalabya Puraskar'. Since then, she has traveled all over the world, winning medals in Spain, Kuwait, Iran, and Germany.
From a 'fluke' beginning in shooting to gaining support from an academically and sports-oriented family, the 28-year-old has come a long way in her quest to achieve shooting success.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, Shriyanka Sadangi spoke candidly on her growth in the sport, her thoughts on the Indian contingent for the 2023 Asian Games, and the struggles she has faced throughout her life.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
Q: How does it feel to break into the Indian spot for the Asian Championships?
Shriyanka: It's a good feeling and I feel getting the chance to participate in both the events, the 10-meter air rifle and 50 meters, is a good opportunity for me. And it's important especially because Asian Championship allows me to compete for the Olympic quota as well. So, I look forward to it.
Q: Is there one particular aspect of your game you're looking to improve before the Asian Championships?
Shriyanka: Yeah, so what I've been doing is I have been working on a couple of things. I'm trying to find the perfect balance between the 50-meter and 10-meter events. And I feel both of them complement each other.
So there are a couple of things that I've mapped out with my coach and we are working on those aspects, which I think should definitely get better before I head to the Asian Championship. There is enough time and it looks good.
Q: What are your thoughts on the shooting contingent that's going for the Asian Games this year?
Shriyanka: It's a good team, a strong team in some of the events. I wish all of them well. We have a good chance of getting good medals. So I hope they all do well. There are youngsters like Manu Bhakkar and Isha Singh coming up, so it looks good.
Q: How good is this for the Indian shooting ecosystem as a whole?
Shriyanka: I think in the past couple of years, there has been immense growth in the team. When I was a junior in 2009/10, there was not much structure in terms of coaching camps. In 2013/14, when Jaspar Rana and others came into the teams, they set a basic structure of how juniors should function and what the training methodologies should be, and then the mindset in the team started changing.
So, the juniors who transitioned into seniors played well. And because now the whole approach is professional in the team, juniors come into the team with a professional attitude and a winning mindset. That's the reason we see the average age in shooting is 21,22. I would be a senior player on the team. So, it is good that everyone comes in with a professional, rigorous approach.
No one is shying away from doing the hard work and the smart work. And it's a good environment to be in. Now, the facilities are structured and streamlined. We have a year-long support staff system, a physical fitness team, psychological training, and a traveling nutritionist. Everyone is in a loop and no one is isolated in preparation.
Q: How did you get into the sport? What has been your journey so far?
Shriyanka: I started shooting way back in 2006 and 2007. My father was in the army and I was part of a scheme called Mission Olympics Catch Them Young. It was a talent hunt program, and I just happened to, by fluke, give the trials for shooting and it ended up that I stood first in the under-12 age category.
Then there was an opportunity to come to Delhi and train with professionals and I started to actually give the sport a shot. I soon realized that I'm enjoying it. And I then became serious about it and worked more passionately.
Q: What were your biggest challenges growing up in the sport?
Shriyanka: I think especially in my school and early college years, one of the major challenges that I faced was balancing education and sport, because we used to travel a lot for all sports commitments, competitions, camps, and training. Giving equal importance to both education and the sport was something that was very challenging. But I felt that shooting, as a sport, is very meditative; it helped me in my education too.
Another thing that I definitely felt was a challenge was that shooting is an expensive sport. So, initially, finding the equipment, finding the right kind of coaching and the infrastructure were all challenging because it's a lot for somebody to buy. It's a lot of investment to buy equipment like rifles and kits for two or three lakhs. However, as you do well, different institutions will lend financial support for equipment. It was difficult for my parents to fund my game initially.
Q: How supportive were your parents during your initial years, juggling sport and education?
Shriyanka: They were very supportive. I have a fine balance of sports and education in my house. My dad is a Ranji Trophy cricket player. He's played for services in Odisha for a couple of years. My mom is the head of a school. So, I have a balance of both academics and sports, but I feel they understood my individuality.
I'm someone who wants to do well at whatever I do and I like to put in the hard yards. So they understood my efforts and added no pressure from their side. In fact, they would try to help me out.
I remember when I was in my 12th standard and had my board exams, but at the same time, had the selection trials for the World Cup happening in Delhi, my mom would sit with me in the car and read out the lessons from the textbook so that I could do both. They've tried to ease the pressure as much as possible on me, which has been of great help. I feel very lucky for that.
Q: And talking about Lakshya Cup last year, you won the gold medal. How were the emotions and how did you manage to hold your nerve in those pressure moments?
Shriyanka: Lakshya Cup is a good competition for all of us locally because it's an invitation-only competition. A lot of top athletes come. The environment is very good and competitive. I was mostly focusing on being present in the moment, trying to follow my technique and my shooting sequence.
Q: The Odisha government has been very supportive of athletes. Can you elaborate on how they have helped you personally?
Shriyanka: The Odisha government has been doing so much for sports. I feel the entire approach to sports in the government has changed drastically over the past couple of years, and I can see the impact. We get a lot of financial and infrastructural help from them.
If you send in your proposals, they will be ready to help you out with the finances and structures that are required. Last year, I got employed with the Odisha government. So, that was a great help to me. I feel they're doing great for the sporting community.