RevSportz Exclusive II Joydeep Karmakar, Jaspal Rana Hope to Avoid Loss of More Talents like Saurabh Chaudhary

Joydeep Karmakar
Rifle coach Joydeep Karmakar with a trainee at his academy. (Source: Joydeep Karmakar)

Everyone likes to worship the rising sun. It provides glow and warmth. The same was the case with Saurabh Chaudhary, the pistol prodigy and teen champion who has now shockingly dropped off the Indian shooting radar.
When the reticent boy from rural Uttar Pradesh was winning medals at competitions from the junior level to the senior level, and then on the international stage, he was labelled a prodigy. DV Seetharama Rao, former National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary had even nicknamed him “Submarine.”
Not now, however, as Saurabh has vanished and there is no one to even find out what went wrong. Shooting in India has grown by leaps and bounds, if you go by what Joydeep Karmakar, the cerebral coach, has to say. “Today, shooting is so big in India, talent is coming from all regions, not necessarily the urban cities,” he told RevSportz. “The growth story is about several clubs and academies coming up, even in smaller towns and youngsters taking to shooting. That is why we get to see so much explosive talent.”
Having finished fourth at the London Olympics (2012) and also been part of the Indian shooting structure, Joydeep da, as he is fondly addressed, continues to coach and guide rifle shooters. Why he quit the national coach’s role is something he does not want to reflect upon, though he is now part of several academies and the shooting set-up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The city has a wonderful shooting range where elite athletes, as well as upcoming talent from within the state, train.
“I must quickly tell you I am not a pistol coach, so to talk of what wrong with technique in Saurabh’s case may be wrong,” said Karmakar. “Yet, as a coach and father of a promising shooter, all I can say is those who start doing badly need to be helped and the confidence must be restored.”
Like the coach, many Indian fans feel sorry for Saurabh. To say the “Submarine” sunk would be brutal, for Saurabh is just 21. For someone who had topped the qualification phase in air pistol at the Tokyo Olympics and then did badly in the final, that period could marked as the start of his decline.
As Indian shooting celebrates 13 quota places won for the Paris Olympics, no one spares a thought for what happened to Saurabh. Prodigies who won medals for India need help to restore confidence and regain their mental balance. He was not part of the Hangzhou Asian Games and is nowhere in the mix for Paris 2024.

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Joydeep Karmakar
Joydeep Karmakar with his son Adrian (Source: Joydeep Karmakar)

“Where are the coaches who were getting photos clicked with him when Saurabh was winning medals?” thundered Jaspal Rana, former national coach and Dronacharya award winner, who is now Manu Bhaker’s personal coach. “Why is nobody willing to help out Saurabh?” Rana said that when a shooter suffers from loss of form or something else goes wrong, there must be a mechanism to help them. “I help anyone who comes to me,” said Rana. “I cannot force Saurabh to come and train with me. The NRAI must restore his confidence back and that will take time.”
As for Karmakar, he feels there is no dearth of talent in India. “We have so many shooters now and each club or academy producing talent needs to be complimented,” he said. “The competition is fierce.”

What are his thoughts on the tweaked selection policy, and build-up to the Paris Olympics? “I am fine with changes in the selection policy,” he said. “I regularly speak to shooters in the USA and Germany. The system there is no different. You have to win the trials before the Olympics and then board the flight. In India, for two Olympics, we have seen the policy did not work. Now, if two trials are held, it will test the shooters thoroughly. I would tell those shooters who won quotas for India, thank you, great job. But then, consistency, being in form before the Olympics, that is very important.
“Let me put it this way, my son (Adrian) could also be part of the Olympic trials, but then the selection policy is clear, the shooters need to have been part of two major ISSF competitions in the last two years. This policy will seem hard, but the bonus points system giving those not in form an unfair advantage needed to be changed. There is still some bonus point for winning a quota, but a formula has been worked out by the NRAI, of which I am no longer a part.”

There is no rancour when he talks of the changes made. Instead, Karmakar feels change is usually always for the better, and the razor-sharp shooters will eventually make the cut for Paris. “They have to be ready for the trials in 2024, this is going to be a great challenge for all the shooters,” he said. “After all, you are representing the country.”

Before signing off, the coach was quick to add that having been part of a previous Olympics did not necessarily give anyone an advantage. “Shooting is a highly individual sport,” he said. “You are not necessarily going to win multiple Olympic medals in multiple Olympics. So, if India sends youngsters who have been through the most stringent methods of selection, it will be a reflection of their strength, technique and mental strength.”

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