When Esha Singh narrowly missed making it to the Tokyo Olympics in the pistol shooting category early this February, she was naturally disappointed. She had finished third. But as luck would have it, another window of opportunity has opened for her.
With the Olympics being pushed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, she is on the list of shooters named by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) last Friday as part of the probables for the Olympics. This gives Esha a year to improve her points to make it to the Games.
“I stand a great chance of making it to the Olympics if I can improve my rankings in this year’s championships,” says the Hyderabad shooter. “This time, I am excited and confident that I can better my rankings and points with my performance.
For now, Esha will train at home. “I have the entire infrastructure, so I shall practise in my house until the association asks us to join the training camp in November,” says the Asian Champion, adding that her immediate challenge is to knock off the rustiness.
“Although I have been practising, I haven’t played any matches of late due to the lockdown. So, I need to warm up and get into the groove quickly. My personal trainer and physiotherapist has been helping me on that,” the Junior World Cup medallist says.
At 15, Esha is the youngest Indian in the pistol shooting category to be part of the Olympic core training group. “I feel so excited and proud! Since I am still young, I believe I have the great advantage of being able to continue in the sport for a long time,” says Esha, who won the Junior Women’s Air pistol Silver and the Mixed Air Pistol Bronze (with Gaurav Rana), in the Junior World Cup in 2019.
Esha, who took to the sport at the age of nine, has come a long way. “Playing at the highest level and on the world stage made me realise that I should be grateful for the opportunities I have had. The more you push yourself, the more you understand yourself,” she explains.
A Standard X student, Esha admits that managing studies and sport was challenging. “But my teachers have been supportive. I am like a special student for them (smiles). Whenever I had to be away to play a tournament, they would walk the extra mile to tutor me on my return,” reveals Esha.
“When I became the National Champion in 2018, my entire class came to the airport to give me a warm welcome. It was a thrilling moment,” says Esha who trains for 3-4 hours a day during the lockdown. “The pandemic taught me to enjoy the sport rather than take it seriously. Every time I prepare for a championship, I carry pressure; but the pandemic made me realise that fundamentally, our mindset should be very open,” she says.
The spirited youngster feels that failures helped her become what she is today. “I have had bad phases, but every tournament taught me a lesson. As the saying goes, ‘everything happens for a reason’, if I hadn’t encountered those failures, perhaps I would not know how to handle pressure in crucial ties in the future,” she signs off.