Under the guidance from his Hungarian coach, Gagan Narang is well on the way to make a mark at Athens, writes A. JOSEPH ANTONY
HIS HUNGARIAN coach's surname means good and Eva Joo has done a world of good for Gagan Narang. Under the Hungarian's tutelage for about a month, Narang made the most of her experience and expertise. The shooter met her, thanks to the introduction by Tibor Gonzol, the Hungarian-born Australian coach, who has trained the Indian shooters on and off for the past seven years at least.
That referral helped him immensely, in that her coaching was quite affordable, Eva charging him quite reasonably when compared to other trainers, what with the Olympics less than a month away. The biggest benefit according to Narang was the proper coaching done without wasting time.
The morning session would be between 9.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. After lunch, the trainees would reassemble at 2.30 p.m. and practise for another two and a half hours. A half day's rest on Sundays was a luxury. The daily training sessions were followed by swimming, sauna, jogging and table tennis after dinner. Gagan could feel a perceptible rise in his fitness levels, resulting in his shedding several pounds.
Gone is the clean-shaven look, replaced by a French beard, a more focussed and intense appearance. A change in attitude goes with the new get-up, in that he's optimistic and quite realistic about his chances for the Olympic competition at the Markopoulo range in Athens. The systematic preparation charted by Joo enabled him plot his performance graph with a fair amount of consistency. Exposure to the Budapest state championship saw him log 594 points and 596 twice in local competition.
Looking ahead at Athens, he reckons the competition there should be lighter, in that each country will field only its best two marksmen as against three in the World Cups. The pre-Olympics in Athens in April found him finishing seventh, the only Indian in the finals of the 10-metre air rifle event. Had he scored another point, he would have been third. So close was the competition, where fractions of points could snatch the medal away from the marksmen.
Thanks to that stint at the Ute Club, his whole outlook on the sport has undergone a sea change. On ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat's advice at the World Championships in Milan, Gagan got himself a new jacket, the German-made Sauer, that cost a whopping 1000 Euros (about Rs. 60,000). He's got himself another Walther rifle too, so that he has something to fall back on, should one of his weapons fail.
To ensure a lock of hair would not fall over his forehead and hamper his vision, Narang had his mane cropped in Budapest. There was a little fallout to that. Women's three position crackshot Deepali Deshpande sharing the elevator with him, failed to recognise Gagan's close-cropped dome, mistaking him for a Greek! Similar was his fate when he came across Anjali Bhagwat a little later.
The Bachelor of Computer Applications graduate had some explaining to do as regards his new look!
A plus point on his quest for Olympic glory will be the presence of his parents in Athens, whose support has been rock-like in his seven-year stint with the sport. To avoid disappointment, the couple had accommodation arranged in the Greek capital well in advance.
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