Shooting for the stars: Sandeep Singh's journey from army man to Paris Olympics dreams

Sandeep Singh shooting Paris Olympics
Indian men's 10m rifle shooter Sandeep Singh (Image: Sandeep Singh's PR)

Sandeep Singh announced himself in the Indian shooting circuit with his prolific show in the recently concluded shooting trials for the Paris Olympics. The Faridkot-born Army man astoundingly topped the men's 10m air rifle trials.

With the qualification scores of 634.4, 632.6, 631.6, and 628.3, Sandeep mustered the highest best-of-three average scores. He stunned the likes of Arjun Babuta (quota holder) and world champion Rudrankksh Patil to emerge as a contender for the Olympics. Babuta finished second and Patil third, with the latter losing the plot to make it to the Paris flight in July.

Although Sandeep was content to finish atop in the trials, he wasn't satisfied with his scores.

"My training has been going great and I am scoring well there. But in comparison to that, I couldn't sense a similar feeling after the trials," Sandeep told Sportskeeda after the trials.

Sandeep's name is likely to appear in the Indian shooter's contingent bound for the Paris Olympics once the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) releases the names. It should be noted that the 28-year-old participated in a solitary international event between 2021 and 2023.

The mental toughness, which he credits to the meditation sessions at the Army Marksmanship Unit in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, sky-rocketed for the army man. The exercise of breathing between two shots allowed the mind to relax and a better decision-making materialized. He also thanked his sponsors for their support in providing him experts who help him with his daily and match day routine.

"When you feel even a bit distracted or sense a kind of pressure around you then you focus on your breathe and then follow the sequence," Sandeep remarked. "We are taught in our regular medidation sessions on how to control our thinking. Reliance Foundation has provided me with great set of experts such as psychologist, nutritionist and physiotherapist. I thank them for their immense support."

Sandeep Singh's testing journey with the Indian army

Before his army days, Sandeep Singh put in the hard yards into running in his village Behbal Khurd in Punjab's Faridkot district. It was a process that would help him for military selection in 2014.

Sandeep describes himself as a quiet person who is not fond of engaging in longer conversations. But if there's something that brings out the core values in his journey, then it is his discipline.

His routine at the army quarters starts from waking up at 5 in the morning, and the day commences with Yoga and meditation sessions. There are two-phased training sessions scheduled daily apart from the physical exercise in the evening.

"The change it brought was I get to stay in discipline and it followed into a healthy routine. Exercising at a specific time and eating at a specific time is discipline. In army we are taught to follow discipline," Sandeep explains how his training at army shaped his routine.

He was at the Siachen Glacier, the highest militarized zone in the world, patrolling for six hours every day under extreme weather conditions of -40°C. The army personnel would weigh 15kg of tents and other necessary equipment. However, this experience opened the doors for a better thought process, which is often dampened in the hustle and bustle of civilized societies.

"When I stayed alone in Siachen, I could think in depth. We cannot think like that in normal times but for that you need to be alone," he said.

After joining the army, Sandeep didn't persist with his desire for athletics but instead was introduced to rifle shooting. He enjoyed the initial shooting process with ease, which saw him become a national bronze medalist within two years.

He made it to the Tokyo Olympics reserve team ahead of the Summer Games. In what came as a bombshell in 2020, Sandeep tested positive for a beta blocker, resulting in a failed dope test, though he denied taking any unregulated substance.

After the ban, the shooter was dismissed from the quarters in Mhow and was sent back to Siachen. It was only when a senior officer permitted him to pursue his potential with the rifle gun did Sandeep move to Delhi.

"I briefed him about my achievements with the number of events I have participated into. I said it with such confidence that he was convinced and eventually gave me permission for shooting," Sandeep mentioned.

After going through the challenges at Siachen, Sandeep got his opportunity to participate in major international shooting tournaments such as World Cups in Rio De Janeiro last year and Granada this year. He also shot a total of 633.4 in qualification at the Asian Championships in Jakarta, though he finished ninth.

Sandeep has a calmness which propels him to go through the ultimate challenges in shooting.

"Shooting game revolves completely around your mental health. The more you are calm, the better you can shoot," Sandeep concluded.

Sandeep's upward trajectory to Paris Olympics selection will be a defining one if he goes a step further and thrusts himself on the podium at the National Shooting Center in Chateuroux.

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