At 40 years of age, Prakash Nanjappa is India’s oldest debutant at the 2016 Rio Olympics. His shooting career did not start at a young age like many other professional shooters who get to the Olympics. He was a software engineer working in Canada till the year 2009. But it was his father who motivated him to come back to India and participate in various events.
The shooter used to practice shooting as a hobby after he was challenged by his father to emulate his skills. But Prakash was in college then and decided to pursue software engineering. It took him to Canada where he worked for seven years but he returned to India in 2009 and participated in domestic shooting competitions. His performances in these tournaments gave him the motivation to go on and finally take up the sport as a profession.
His first international event was an ISSF World Cup held in Munich in 2012. The shooter was taking little steps forward in making a name for himself in the international shooting scene. He won his first major medal when he bagged the bronze at the 2013 ISSF World Cup in Changwon, South Korea. His final score of 180.2 was an incredible achievement for an Indian in the 10m air pistol event.
He had taken part at a total of six events in that year. But as fate would have it, the shooter suffered from an unfortunate paralytic attack on the right side of his face during the 2013 ISSF World Cup held in Granada, Spain. However, his shooting career did not come to a stand-still, the shooter recovered from his illness to win a silver medal in the 50m air pistol at the Asian Shooting Championships held in Tehran in October 2013.
Prakash Nanjappa’s major achievements so far:
Silver medal – 2013 Asian Championships, Tehran.
Silver medal – 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, Scotland.
Bronze medal – 2013 ISSF World Cup, Changwon, South Korea.
The former engineer went on to participate in various events in the following years, his best result was when he finished 5th in the 10m air pistol event at the 2014 ISSF World Cup held in Maribor. His consistency since recovering from the illness has enabled the shooter to finish in the top-10 in many events. Prakash qualified for the Rio Olympics as the sixth shooter via quota. He had finished eighth in the 50m air pistol event at the 2015 ISSF World Cup in Gabala, participating in only his second finals.
At Rio, Prakash’s main competitors will be Ukraine’s Oleh Omlechuk (winner of the 2016 ISSF World Cup in Rio), Korea’s Jin Jongoh, Spain’s Pablo Carrera, and the Chinese duo of Wei Pang and Wang Zhiwei. World number two, Jitu Rai is also a favorite to win the medal at the Olympics. However, it is number one ranked Jin Jongoh and number three ranked Wei Pang who will give tough competition to the Indian duo of Nanjappa and Rai.
It is also interesting that Nanjappa has won all three medals in the 10m air pistol events but he does not have any major podium finishes in the 50m pistol category. The Indian is currently ranked 26th in the world in the 50m pistol category. His credentials do not make him the favourite to land a medal.
Given the fight he has shown to come out of illness and perform consistently at the world events, we cannot rule out the Indian winning his first Olympic medal at his debut Games. At the age of 40, he is one of the dark horses who will participate in the 50m air pistol event.