Shooting remains ‘mentor’ Gagan’s top priority

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Gagan Narang’s Project Leap kicked off at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College campus on Thursday and the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist was in attendance. The last few years have seen the 34-year-old mentor fellow shooters and even go on to open the Gun For Glory Shooting Academy, but he is clear as to where his real focus lies.

“I started my academy in 2011 and the Project Leap program recently. I have not fully ventured into coaching as I am still shooting and that’s my priority,” Gagan told TOI.

While Gagan has so far managed to balance his professional and coaching commitments, he concedes that the task is only getting difficult. “Managing a not-for-profit academy is a challenge. It is difficult for people to imagine that we are doing so much without any selfish motive. It is the passion to give back to the sport that is keeping me and those associated with the academy going,” he said.

The roadblocks notwithstanding, Gagan is happy with whoever has come on board to support his endeavour. “Institutions such as Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) and SRMC have offered assistance which is very heartening. It has not been easy because the sport is not spectator friendly. They (investors) also want something in return in terms of mileage and all we can promise is to bring medals,” Gagan said.

As part of the Project Leap program, 23 shooters – 11 girls and 12 boys – in the age category of 12 and 20 are trained and mentored to be world-class shooters.

“Our aim is to produce shooters who will do consistently well in the years to come. For that to happen, they need the best facilities possible along with top-notch coaches. That’s the reason why we have Slovakian rifle coach Anton Belak as part of the program and the kids get along well with him,” he said.

How has his experience been interacting with the kids? “It’s been a learning experience for me. We have different age-group shooters in the program. Times were different when I began shooting as we struggled to get the best equipment in the beginning but these kids have got the best from the start,” he said.

The ace shooter will next be seen at the Asian Airgun Championships to be held in Japan next month.

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