He was around six years old when he went to a village fair and got fascinated by a plastic gun. His father bought him the toy without knowing that one day it would make the boy shine like gold. As the boy grew up, he started bursting balloons with his toy gun and perfected his aim. It was merely three years ago that Saurabh Chaudhary, the 10m air pistol shooter who brought gold for the country at the Asian Games, told his father that he wanted to train in the sport. His father relented and Saurabh began formal training in shooting in 2015 after his father purchased a pistol for him for Rs 1.75 lakhs.
“When I realised that he was interested in the sport and good at it, I decided to let him proceed and got him enrolled at Amit Sheoran’s academy in Benoli near Baghpat. It was here that he honed his skills,” recalls Jagmohan Chaudhary, Saurabh’s father. Jagmohan Chaudhary is a well-to-do sugarcane grower in Kalina village in Meerut district and the family is typically conservative and old-fashioned. “Mera chhora bahut seedha hai (my son is very simple). He is quiet, has almost no friends and does not go out like other boys. He keeps practicing till late in the night in a private shooting range that he has built in the backyard of the house,” he says.
Mother Brijesh says that her son, who is presently in Korea, has never troubled her. “He never fusses about food and eats whatever is given to him. He has never made any demands — be it clothes, toys or anything else. I only pray to God that he gets what he deserves,” she says. Famous shooter Jaspal Rana, who coached Saurabh at the national camp, says, “Saurabh is a much focussed sportsman. He is quiet and reserved and diverts all his attention to his practice. His concentration on the sport earned him the gold. I am confident that he will achieve greater heights because he does not let success go to his head.”
Saurabh is one of those rare teenagers who stays away from social media and does not use a mobile phone. He is either sketching or helping his father in the fields in his spare time. He is not keen on watching television or movies either.
While the entire Kalina village in Meerut district danced with joy when Saurabh won the gold last month, the boy was unusually calm and composed over the achievement. “When Saurabh won the gold medal, he called us from a friend’s phone and informed us in a very matter-of-fact manner. His voice showed no excitement and it took us time to let the news sink in. Saurabh said that if he had allowed himself to get pressurised, he would not have won the gold — jo hoga dekha jayega, he said,” his elder brother Nitin informs.
Saurabh’s success has also brought him other rewards — UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a cash prize of Rs 50 lakhs for Saurabh and also a government job. His father, however, is a bit worried. “Saurabh is in class 10 but his hectic sports schedule will now make his studies take a backseat. He will be leaving for Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October. The state government should clarify whether he will be given a job since he may not have time to get the degrees needed for it. We have also not received the cash prize announced. Sirf akhbaar mein padha hai,” he says....