Shooting: Interview with Rakesh Manpat
India’s shooting contingent produced the most number of medals for India at the Commonwealth Games, one-fourth of the medals to be precise. This is a sort of golden generation of shooters that we are experiencing today with the likes of Gagan Narang, Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar and Anisa Sayeed. Now as the Asian Games are in progress, we look at the upcoming generation of shooting in India and one of its many brightest stars: Rakesh Manpat.
Rakesh Manpat is a shooter from Bangalore who has the credit of standing one behind shooters like Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra at the Commonwealth Games trials. Very early in his shooting career, he was spotted by Gagan Narang as a potential who can do India proud at the biggest stage. We talked to him to know more…
Arpit: Shooting as a sport has achieved a lot for India, in 2002 Olympics too – our only silver individual medal came from Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. But do you think that the huge success of the CWG games in India in general and especially of the shooting contingent will really propel participation in the sport?
Rakesh Manpat: Definitely yes, I think after the CWG in Delhi particularly people have started following the sport and how the Indians are doing. Most of the shooters lived up to the expectations and that the public respond with more interest. Shooting has contributed the highest number of medals to the Indian tally and that speaks volumes.
Arpit: As a practitioner of a sport like shooting in India which requires a lot of equipment and training facilities, what motivated you to take up the sport professionally?
Rakesh Manpat: The initial interest that I had in the sport was partly because of my brother, who also came into this sport through the NCC and then I joined as guns fascinate me. I am competitive in nature and that always makes a good sportsman.
Then, when I was shooting good in the first few months even with very bad equipment, a renowned Hungarian rifle coach Lazlo Scuzak and Gagan Narang identified potential in me at the national camps held in my my home-town Bangalore.
Right from the time I got to know about the achievements and the story of Gagan Narang, Abhinav Bindra, Anjali Bhagwat and Suma Shirur it has motivated me to join their league. I am determined to work towards it. A long chat with Abhinav in 2006 through email made me focus a lot more on the sport.
Arpit: It is clear that your performance so far has been admirable, but what do you think needs to be added in your repertoire both in terms of skill and facility so as to replicate this performance at the biggest of stages like the Asian Games and Olympics?
Rakesh Manpat: There are a lot of things lacking in my equipment, I am fortunate to have funding and moral support from Olympic Gold Quest but the long procedure to import a .22 50M Rifle is a disadvantage in competing and giving my best in my pet event. I have been trying to import it since the last year and it is making life difficult. If I do not have proper equipment how am I supposed to even take part in any competition for this event?
I have been borrowing rifles from other shooters for matches as the state association don’t have the latest machinery. Otherwise, with good ammunition with the skills that I have, and a bit of practice, I will be able to match the best.
Arpit: What does the future hold for you? What are the immediate things you aim at: the events you have to attend and in training?
Rakesh Manpat: I am looking forward for my first competition at home which is the National championship, likely to be held in Bangalore in Jan 2011. I will happen at a newly constructed shooting range at SAI. The range would be a brand new so there would not be any home advantage but I would look to shoot my personal best.
Other than that my goal is to make it to the world cups and look to qualify to the Olympics. That is another thing that fascinates me to the core.
Arpit: You were ranked 3rd Behind Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra at the Common Wealth Games Trials 2010, how is it to know that you match up to the country’s best at so young an age?
Rakesh Manpat: I was delighted to see myself stand so close to heavyweights like Gagan and Abhinav. I was happy that I lived upto the expectations. I was shooting well on both the days. I was shooting right next to Gagan and after the game Gagan congratulated me with a tight hug and Abhinav also congratulated me personally. That made my day.
I don’t look at myself as a youngster but try to match the world standard as my goals are always high. If you see it that way, Zhu Qinan – the now world no.1, was 19-20yrs when he got the Olympic gold in Athens in 10M air rifle and 24 at Beijing when he got an Olympic silver. It is more about the mindset than the age.
Arpit: For being a shooter, you have a unique idol in Michael Phelps: a swimmer! How does his gold streak motivate you?
Rakesh Manpat: Olympic champions are treated as the best in the world. But an Olympic champion simply cannot be compared with what Micheal Phelphs has achieved! After watching him swim at Beijing on TV he just opened our minds that we are all capable of much more things than what we are actually doing!
His book “No Limits” is the most exciting book I have come across.
Arpit: Are you satisfied with the coaching facilities available to you? How importance is guidance and experience in shooting?
Rakesh Manpat: I am very satisfied with the new foreign coach Lapidus Stanislav (kaz) who is coaching the national team.
As shooting has not yet become a well established sport in India, there is not much guidance available other than the big performers. Shooting is more of a mental sport as after covering all the equipment or skill related aspects, it is experience that takes a shooter ahead.
Arpit: To conclude on a personal note, what do you like to do in your free time? How do you relax after spending so much time in the shooting range?
Rakesh Manpat: I am mostly away from home for training and that’s how it has been for the past 2 years. I usually try and get in touch with my friends on Facebook and if I am at home I enjoy my bike ride as I love super bikes J
Arpit: If you were to achieve your biggest success today, how would you go about celebrating it?
Rakesh Manpat: Well I have always liked helping the needy whenever I can and that’s what gives me happiness. If I achieved my biggest success today, I would have love to visit an orphanage and celebrate there.