In the recently concluded International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) Junior World Cup in Sydney, India’s young shooter Elavenil Valarivan clinched gold in the women’s 10m Air Rifle event. The 18-year old not just won the individual and team gold medal, but also notched up the world record qualification score of 631.4.
We had the privilege to interview India’s young and promising shooting superstar Elavenil Valarivan, here is the excerpt:
A junior world champion and a world record holder? Has it sunk in yet, Elavenil?
Not yet, still getting used to the adulation, but I am also aware that records are not going to stay forever so a shooter needs to keep working hard constantly as the margins of error are so less.
How did you get into shooting?
What started off as a means to control my anger and help me focus and calm down, soon became a sport that I got hooked on to! I took up shooting at the suggestion of one of my acquaintance who was a state level shooter. I continued shooting at the local club on and off for some time but I got the real taste of the game when I was introduced to professional shooting and coaching at the Gun for Glory Academy. As a part of promoting shooting culture by Sports Authority of Gujarat, Gun for Glory Academy had launched its programmed at our school, Sanskar Dham in Gujrat. My coach at the Academy, Neha Chauhan has been my mentor since 2014 and has been guiding me to date.
It takes a huge amount of training and dedication to reach the level you’re at now – We’d like to know more about the journey to here.
Shooting is a very demanding sport and after years of training and hard work, that “One Shot” can determine where your destination will be! Being part of the ‘Project Leap’ promoted by the Gagan Narang Sports Foundation since last July, I have gone through precision training which has not only helped improve my shooting technique but also has helped me to be more focused, shoot more confidently and hit the perfect marks in the training time and again. I am a better shooter since joining Project Leap and have worked with the coaches Neha ma’am, Anton Belak sir, and Gagan Sir very closely during the training.
How do you mentally prepare for a competition?
I work with the mental conditioning coaches that the Gagan Narang Sports Foundation has provided to the shooters as part of the Project Leap. They have not only been very helpful but has also has calmed me down. I regularly practice Yoga as well.
Tell us about the roles Gun For Glory (GFG) academy, Gagan Narang and Pawan Singh have played in your career so far.
It was because of the GFG shooting academy in my home city that I am even a shooter today! My coach Neha who is part of the Olympics Gold Quest (OGQ) and GFG Coaching Mentors team is someone who has hugely contributed through my formative years and I train with her even today. The systematic training and the structure that Pawan sir and Gagan Sir had laid with “Project Leap” has led to a real turn around for all of us. In the last one year, we have been working on every minute detail of my game and such corrections have really helped to better our shooting scores.
In my case, one of the key take away that the Coaches worked upon was, stopping of my swaying tendency. Identifying this minor issue and rectifying it has not only helped me to shoot confidently but my scores have been consistent since. While my best score in training used to be 10.3, post the corrections I started shooting consistently at a 10.6.
How do you refocus when a shot doesn’t go as well as you planned? Your last second shot at the finals was slightly below par at 9.6. What was going through your mind between this and your next shot?
We have trained for such situations time and again during our training. A thousand shots have been shot only to reach the perfect score consistently. As a shooter, once we have pulled the trigger for a shot, you don’t think whether it is my best or not. We are trained to take the best every time we lock the target and not think what went wrong.
You’ve experienced success at such a young age and no doubt there’s lots more to come. In terms of achievements, what’s next on your ‘To Do’ list?
This is just the beginning and I have a long way to go, my aim is to be part of the Indian senior team and continue to give my best for the country.
In recent years we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of women taking up the sport for fun. What do you think could be done to encourage more women and girls to take up shooting competitively?
As an active and professional shooter, it is our responsibility to perform at the highest level. Media has to help too in promoting the achievements of budding shooters thereby encouraging them to take up the sport professionally. Also, Gun for Glory and few other academies have done a wonderful job of introducing the sport of shooting at non-top tier cities that traditionally do not have great sporting facilities. Like Mahima Agrawal and Shreya Agrawal who have sprung from cities like Jabalpur, with GFG’s efforts, am confident you will see more talent spring soon. Access to good shooting ranges, coaching and training facilities being the key in this case.
Elavenil Valarivan is confident, ambitious, disciplined and talented. With youngsters like her coming up the ranks and academies like Gagan Narang’s Gun for Glory providing world-class facilities and coaching to India’s young, the future of Indian sports looks supremely promising!