“Shooting local competitions in Italy before the Paris Olympics will keep me sharp and ready,” says Maheshwari Chauhan

Maheshwari Chauhan (Image: Instagram)

For any elite athlete, making an Olympic debut is special. And when the debut turns into competing in two events and representing India at the Paris 2024 Olympics, it is a big thing. Maheshwari Chauhan, who has barged into the skeet team by sheer weight of performance, attributes her ‘sudden’ rise to hard work, spread over 12 years and a strong work ethic.

Sample this, when the trials were held last year to pick the Indian team for the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, she was not “good enough.” Yet, when it came to more trials held by the National Rifle Association of India earlier this year, Maheshwari, from Jalore in Rajasthan, arrived with a bang.

In the past, there were many shooters who did well in the trials and then choked on the big stage. No, not with Maheswari, who shot with consistency and managed pressure well in an important ISSF World Cup in Doha, which changed a whole lot of things in April. She returned to India, took a break, spent time with her family and again hit the ground running.

On Tuesday, when the National Rifle Association of India announced the team for the Paris 2024 Olympics, Maheshwari was more than ecstatic. “You are the first to give me the news that I am in the team,” she told RevSportz from Italy. Many shotgun marksmen have used Italy as a base for training, as facilities there are very good. Given the extreme heat in North India, shooting outdoors at the Karni Singh Ranges on the outskirts of New Delhi is next to impossible.

Asked about her build-up to Paris, Maheshwari, 27, was optimistic but did not go overboard with the emotions. After all, to shoot in the individual skeet event and also pair up with Anantjeet Naruka in the mixed pairs is going to be challenging.

Image: Maheshwari Chauhan Instagram

She has spoken of thriving under pressure, that’s what she has worked for over 12 years, since the time she started shooting back home in Rajasthan and New Delhi, when she was a student at the LSR College. Asked about the next 33 plus days, which are most important before Paris, she said: “I will be training in Italy like I have in the past few months with my coach (Riccardi Filipelli). I will aim to shoot in as many local competitions as possible in Italy to keep the competition practice going,” said Maheshwari.

One should not get confused with something “small” when a shooter talks of “local competition” in Italy. These are events where the world’s best shooters descend to go ‘boom boom’ with the shotgun. As one who has built a solid team around herself, Maheshwari is aware, when she goes to Paris, all of them may not be there. She does use a coach, mind trainer and many more in the support staff to keep herself in best shape, physically and mentally.

Modern day sport is all about accessing and using the best support system which is available. In this journey, being strong in the mind, developing a “killer instinct” and staying focussed are important. For someone who never had any corporate backing all these years and spent money from her extended family, the Olympic debut is a dream come true.

“It is most important I enjoy this (Olympic) journey which I have waited for many years to experience. I feel immense pride in being in the Olympic team and even more so as Raiza (Dhillon) and I represent the first ever Indian skeet team at an Olympics,” she told RevSportz, in an exclusive interview.

Indian shotgun has been more about only burly men showcasing their skills in the past. It is only in the last five years plus, women shooters in trap and skeet have come out smoking and taken on the best in the world. To say that the way the NRAI held trials, one after the other, and put the marksmen through repeated competition was gruelling. But then, nobody goes to an Olympics just on the basis of having sealed a quota place a year or two ago.

The new selection policy from the NRAI has given a chance for all in fray to prove themselves and challenge those with a “bonus point” who had won a quota place for India. Indeed, this policy has ensured the best could make the cut after looking at multiple scores achieved in trials and competitions at home and abroad.

“I think the shotgun (Indian) contingent is so young and the biggest it has been in history, so I definitely feel we are on the right track for the Olympics. And I am certain we will do our best and make the country prouder,” added Maheshwari.