Dreams take wings with dedication, hard work, perseverance and the right support. Ask India’s famed shooter Tejaswini Sawant and she wouldn’t agree more. The athlete from Maharashtra’s Kolhapur took up a career in shooting at the tender age of 13 and started practice at a facility in the town.
It was when shooting was relatively unknown and the training range in Dudhali, in Kolhapur, was just barely manageable for Tejaswini Sawant. Her parents – father Ravindra Sawant, an officer in the Indian Navy, and her mother Sunitha, a state-level cricket and volleyball player – made sure to leave no stone unturned to support their daughter’s illustrious dream.
While Tejaswini showed characteristics of hard work, dedication and perseverance in abundance, the right support always seemed elusive. Her father had to knock on several doors for funds to buy her a good rifle.
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Formative years of Tejaswini Sawant
The 41-year-old shooter earned her first laurels when she was deemed the best shooter at the NCC 6 Maharashtra Girls Battalion in 1999 and continued her good work by finishing in the top-five at the Mavlankar Championship in Asansol, West Bengal. But the defining moment where she made heads turn was at the ninth SAF Games in Islamabad in 2004, when she helped India clinch a gold. It was just the start.
However, financial constraints meant Tejaswini Sawant spent most of her time looking for sponsors when she should have been training. Her family, already having taken a loan to buy a rifle from the Maharashtra State Rifle Association, was knocking on every door to help manage a sponsor for Tejawini’s next tournament – a World Championship in Munich, Germany.
Shooting was still an unknown sport in India and her father, who firmly believed that talent shouldn’t be equated with money, got a chance to meet politician and senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil. Little did they know that it was that meeting that would change the fortunes of Tejaswini Sawant overnight.
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Help at the right moment
Patil then spoke to then-Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who offered to help Tejaswini in his personal capacity. A cheque of ₹1 lakh was given and Tejaswini Sawant was off to Munich.
The shooter wouldn’t let the trust and the affection shown by her family and the politicians go to waste. She scored 397 and 396 out of a possible 400 in the two rounds and from then on, there was no looking back.
Tejaswini Sawant continued her good form and in 2005 she won a silver medal and a team gold at the Asian Air gun Championship in Bangkok, Thailand.
Medals and accolades became a constant byproduct of her grit, while Tejaswini Sawant re-wrote the record books. In 2010, she became the first Indian female shooter to win gold at the World Championships in the 50m Air Rifle event with a record-breaking score.
Watch: When Tejaswini Sawant won gold at the World Championships
The icing on the cake of the illustrious feat – the tournament was held in Munich, Germany, the same place where Tejaswini Sawant had struggled to participate years ago. It was then only two people who she had to thank, other than her family – Chandrakant Patil and Manohar Parikkar.
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After the Munich feat, there was no looking back for the Maharashtra shooter. She soared to the international rankings and reached the top, where she knew she truly belonged.
When Tejaswini Sawant, at the age of 41, takes center stage at the Tokyo Olympics 2021, it would be a lesson in how grit, determination, perseverance and the right support at the right time shaped up an illustrious career.