NEW DELHI: He was unlucky to not make it to the list of Arjuna awardees this year, but that could do little to shake the focus of shooter Abhishek Verma. In fact, it spurred him on; and the soft-spoken air pistol ace packed his bags to end his pandemic-forced stay of almost five months at his family home in Chandigarh to return to his training base Gurugram in August.
The ‘hobby shooter’, as Verma came to be known as after his 2018 Asian Games bronze medal, was getting restless despite setting up a make-shift range at home with the help of Olympic Gold Quest. But over the long run, it wasn’t satiating his appetite for proper shooting.
Thus, he put together a ‘start from zero’ programme and left the comforts of his home in Chandigarh to get back in top shape.
“I have started my training from zero. Whatever I was doing before lockdown, I have started from scratch to reach that stage again,” said Verma talking to
“Technically speaking, we were following a schedule at that time (until March) and were at the peak of our performance. Then there was a period of 5-6 months where we were not able to perform (train) even 10-20 percent of that. Some of us didn’t have the equipment, some didn’t have a range (to practice in). The break also took a mental toll.”

“Now I am working on quality performance and have started from the basics of shooting, trying to perfect each and every aspect one by one,” he explained.
A qualified lawyer, Verma recently received his provisional enrolment certificate from the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana and had plans to start practice sometime towards the end of this year. But it seems he might have put that on hold.
In January this year, Verma left the range of his coach Omendra Singh to train at another facility in Gurugram itself.

“I have a friend who has built a range in a mall in Gurgaon (Gurugram). He made a special, international-standard firing point for me. The lighting and all is similar to what you find at international tournaments,” Abhishek had told previously.
“There is one SIUS (electronic target system) and the remaining seven are paper targets (manually operated). I got that firing point tailor-made according to my preferences and requirements. I practiced there from January to March.”
“I pay some extra charges for that. So when there’s no camp, I will practice there,” Verma, who shares a house that he and a couple of other shooters have taken on rent in Gurugram, had said.
The Asian Games bronze turned out to be a launchpad for the 31-year-old Verma, who went on to win World Cup gold medals in 2019 at Beijing and Rio. With his feat at Beijing, Verma also secured a men’s 10m air pistol Olympic quota for India.
Talking further about the current programme he has started following, Verma said he is also in touch with India’s junior pistol coach Jaspal Rana over the phone whenever he needs some guidance.
Rana, who was recently honoured with the Dronacharya Award, is currently at his village in Dehradun.

“I was waiting for the camp, but it wasn’t happening, then I decided to start proper training on my own. I am in touch with Jaspal sir, keep discussing things with him,” said Verma.
“My trigger control was very good (before lockdown), now I want to take it up a few levels to make it the best. I have worked on it over the last one month and can feel a lot of improvement.”
“Similarly, I am working on other aspects, like, for example, my breathing technique. I am giving 15-20 days to each of those. During competition season, you don’t get to do that. It was our constraint to stick to what we know, there was no time to experiment,” Verma further told
The National Rifle Association of India’s attempts to hold a camp for elite shooters, first in July and then in August, were put to rest due to the raging pandemic in Delhi. Also, one of the coaches at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range had tested positive for coronavirus, though some of the shooters who live in the Delhi-NCR region have made use of the facility that was opened by the Sports Authority of India in July.

(Abhishek Verma, far right, with coach Jaspal Rana and fellow pistol shooter Manu Bhaker)
But if the national camp continues to remain off the 2020 calendar, Verma has made some plans to advance his training.
“If there is no national camp by December, then I am planning to train in Bhopal under Jaspal sir for a month. It’s a possibility. I have discussed this with Jaspal sir and he is fine with it,” he said.
Verma is hoping that the coronavirus situation allows him to travel to Ruse, Slovenia, for the season-opening Grand Prix in scheduled for January next year.

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