No corporate sponsor, no backing from govt schemes, Maheshwari Chauhan tells RevSportz after sealing a shooting quota place for Paris Olympics

PC: Maheshwari Chauhan

No sponsor, no government support, shooting alone. That’s the success story of Maheshwari Chauhan, who clinched a record 21st quota place for India in shooting at the Paris Olympics. On Sunday, at the high intensity ISSF Final Olympic Qualification Championship finale in Doha, the 27-year-old from Jalore Rajasthan, shot with focus to win a silver and crown herself in glory.

Just two hours after the historic win, which fetched India a second shooting quota in women’s skeet, Maheshwari had to be egged on to speak about her journey.

After all, one had not heard too much about her, till this weekend. That she created a desert storm of sorts in Doha was apparent, shooting through the competition with tons of pressure.
“Pressure, ask me about it,” said Maheshwari.

That she could laugh during the conversation was great, for the final day on Sunday tested her mettle, temperament and how she could keep going. “I think, from the first round itself, I started enjoying the pressure. It was as if I wanted to keep going under pressure, willing to focus harder and enjoy it. At stake was an Olympic quota, so there was no way I was going to relax,” Maheshwari told RevSportz in an exclusive chat.

Life has not been easy, really for her. Yes, Indian shooting gets massive support from the Government (Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India). “I have been shooting for over 12 years now on my own, I get no funding from any government scheme or any corporate,” she said. Was there a tinge of sadness or was she stating a fact?

PC: Maheshwari Chauhan

Maheshwari took a long breath. “I owe this medal, this quota place to my family and my coach. The journey has been hard, but enjoyable. All I can say is, I wish to thank my husband (Adhiraj Singh Rathore), my parents, my in-laws and my personal coach Riccardo Filipelli,” said Maheshwari, who got married in February this year.

“Yes, I am fortunate my father, family have supported me and Adhiraj has also been an active trap shooter. I am fortunate, I have my own range at home (Udaipur) where there is a range for trap and skeet, but I did need to find a coach to guide me,” explained Maheshwari.

From life at the Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi a few years ago, and then continuing to shoot skeet, there was a craze, a passion and a goal. Did she miss the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year? “I did not make the team, that’s it,” she said emphatically. “This time, at the Olympic trials held in March, I did well. For me, this was a maiden, huge final in Doha. It was a make or break of sorts, and this is where my personal coach working with me had helped big time,” stressed Maheshwari.

For those unaware, Riccardo Filipelli, from Italy, had been hired by Maheshwari two year ago. He had shot for Italy at major competitions, including the Tokyo Olympics. But once he had quit shooting, Maheshwari had signed him on. “We have been working for over two years now, the big result has come now,” she said.

Indian shotgun shooters and Italy is an old connection, not just in terms of coaching or using their shotguns, but also training in Italy. Was language not a barrier for the coach and shooter? Again, Maheshwari could relax a bit. “He had to take English lessons for me. He still does in fact! But then, what he has taught me, in terms of technique has been fantastic,” said Maheshwari Chauhan.

There are times when Riccardo comes to India, or she has to fly to Italy and train. Talk of mental pressure and dealing with it, Maheshwari was frank when she said she was using a consultant online in the United States of America. “I have been going through sessions online and it has helped me,” she said.

In comparison to some of the teenage kids who earned shooting quota places for India, Maheshwari has matured slightly late. But then, in shooting, 26 or 27 is still young. There are many who have gone on to shoot till 50 at international competitions.

If one were to make a rough calculation of how much money Maheshwari’s family would have spent in the last decade, it would be a whopping sum, running into crores of rupees. Shotgun is an expensive sport in all ways, be it guns, ammunition or hiring a personal coach.
Cost calculation cannot be done to arrive at a figure at what was spent by the Maheshwari family to earn a quota place for India at the Paris Olympics. Indian sport has seen stories of people coming from poor backgrounds and struggling to make it big. But then, in this case, for Maheshwari to have believed in herself is worth praise.

After all, in dressage, equestrian, Anush Agarwalla’s parents have also spent massive sums of money, kept the boy abroad (Europe) for training to ensure he did well in the Asian Games and won two medals. He will, hopefully, be in Paris as well.

Maheshwari is aware, she sealed the quota place at the very last minute. In Kuwait, earlier this year, Raiza Dhillon, 19, had sealed India’s first quota in skeet.
Luckily for the shotgun shooters, the punishing Olympic trials were held in March. There are more competition coming up for them, immediately. The next World Cup will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in May first week. “I will return to New Delhi and rest for a few days. Maybe, just a day’s training before I leave for Baku,” said Maheshwari.
There is no time for Maheshwari Chauhan to celebrate this silver medal win and quota place. The goal is to punch her ticket for the Paris Olympics, of course, subject to the selection policy put in place by the National Rifle Association of India.