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Marksman with a difference

Karnataka's ace shooter, P.N. Prakash, has set his sights firmly on a lofty target - transition from the civilian class to the open category.



On target: P.N. Prakash — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

DO ACCIDENTS have happy endings? Ask P.N. Prakash. Karnataka's ace shooter sighted his bull's eye after a bike accident four years ago. Before the fall that injured his left elbow, Prakash raced ahead in motorbike rallies besides winning gold in the standard rifle event of the State Championship in August 1998. His tryst with shooting had earlier started at home when his father, P.N. Papanna, a veteran shooter, asked him to give it a try in their indoor range.

The accident, however, left him pondering over his options and while he gingerly got back to the shooting range, handling a rifle with an injured left elbow was cumbersome. "During my practice stints after the accident I found it tough to handle a rifle and the pistol was an easier option," he recalls.

Sighting targets and pock marking them has become second nature to him. However, shooting, especially on celluloid, does look like kids play when heroes strike targets while villains inevitably miss them. But, in sport and in warfare, shooting demands a calm mind, sharp eyes, and firm fingers. And Prakash finds his peace in yoga, meditation, and an understanding family. There are intangibles, which all shooters try and overcome while they gun for glory. "There are more than 100 variables in shooting. The way you employ your finger on the trigger, the way your body is aligned, and the rhythm of your heart are all variables. If your finger wavers a little on the trigger you might well end up with a washout. I have also learnt a lot from my uncle D. Lingam, a naval officer based in Coimbatore," he says.

Thankfully, a washout has eluded him while he works hard at the SAI Campus on weekends and at the indoor range at home during weekdays. Prakash, who is now the Director of Veda Infotech,

juggles hard for time, but the 26-year old remains unruffled. And in gripping the pistol he got a better grip on his future. In the early days he secured the eighth rank in the standard pistol event of the National Championship at Bangalore in January '99. "It was a heartening performance, considering I had just taken up the sport," recalls Prakash.

The medals were soon raining hard and Prakash was a regular on the victor's podium in the State and National levels. Recently at the National Shooting Championship at the SAI Campus, Prakash won gold in the 10m air-pistol and 50m pistol and also bagged a silver in the 25m rapid fire pistol events.

Surprisingly his winning shots were fired from borrowed weapons. "It would help immensely if we (the State shooters) have our own weapons. Do you know that top shooters such as Jaspal Rana have customised weapons? Here all we want is our own weapons so that we practise better. I am sure Nagraj Rao Jagdale, Secretary, Karnataka State Rifle Association, who has always helped us, will do something about our genuine need," he says.

Shortage of weapons are often attributed to lack of funds. Shooting does mean big bucks often fading away in the form of bullets and pellets. A .22 bullet may well cost Rs. 12 while a .32 costs Rs. 25 in the open market and during practice nearly 60 rounds are fired. And when money like that goes up in smoke, the need is for corporate sponsors who will lend financial muscle for talent to flower. "We need sponsors and for that the sport needs publicity," says Prakash.

Another snag is the Government's import policies. "Though liberalisation has swept other spheres, as far as import of weapons is concerned, the Government is still rigid. Sadly only the shooting fraternity suffers while terrorists keep getting their guns," said Rajiv Bhatia, Secretary, National Rifle Association of India, during the recent National Championship.

Stumbling blocks remain but Prakash's desire to excel and make that transition from the civilian to the open category remains high. "I want to break into the open category and the fact that my scores are just two points less than the qualification mark gives me hope. The ultimate aim is to win a medal at the Olympics," he says.

Shooting has now replaced his earlier love - whizzing on bikes. However, there are no regrets. For him, the distance between a throttle and the trigger was a matter of one deep breath. "I agree that racing involves some physical activity while shooting demands that we remain absolutely still but both events have a target and I love hitting the target," he says.

Fresh targets beckon Prakash, who was recently honoured by the Karnataka Olympic Association. He continues to inspire the State's shooting fraternity. "Youngsters such as Sree Krishna have the potential to break into the top ranks," he says.

Right now, his sights are fixed on a target that never blurs and the medal that glitters. And if the State's shooting infrastructure gets a face-lift, shooters like Prakash will add wings to their dreams.

H.S. MANJUNATH

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