Swapnil Kusale, and how spirituality has aided an Olympic dream

Image: Swapnil Kusale Instagram

Swapnil Kusale is one of India’s top candidates to get a call for the final list of shooters bound for Paris next month. Kusale hails from a modest family background in Maharashtra and enrolled in the Krida Prabhodini Scheme under the government of Maharashtra. That was how his sporting journey started. After training for six years in Nasik, he came to Pune to train under his current coach, Deepali Deshpande, and since then, he has been a regular in the Indian national shooting team.

The 29-year-old shooter won a gold medal in the Hangzhou Asian Games in 50m 3-Position Rifle team event and created a world record of 1769 points.

Now competing in the Munich round of the ISSF World Cup in the Germany, Kusale did well in the NRAI Qualifiers for the Paris Olympics, held in Delhi and Bhopal in April. In the Men’s 50m 3-Position Rifle event, Kusale stands second to Aishwary Pratap Tomar with an average total score of 589.73, prior to the final list being published. “My mindset was same for both the trials, whether in Delhi or Bhopal, but the conditions were very difficult,” he told RevSportz in an exclusive interaction. “It was a moderate climate in Delhi, but Bhopal was very hot. It’s difficult to shoot in that heat wearing the gears.

“It was really a challenging situation to perform under that humid conditions wearing the gears, but it gave a good test to our resilience. I’m happy to be able to do well in the trials.”

With back-to-back competitions scheduled and Paris one month away, it is important for the shooters to be in their best shape in every aspect. “Technically, I was sound, but I have to work more on the health and physical fitness side,” said Kusale. “Need to plan the rest schedules better, because it is important to recover properly before the big events.”

In the 3-Position rifle event, the three positions – kneeling, prone and standing – have their own uniqueness and required skill set. Shooters have their strengths and weaknesses, and plan accordingly how to go about it in a competition. How does Kusale go about the three positions? “Well, all the three positions have their own specialty and I like all three,” he said. “I try to be confident in all three, but there are days the body is conditioned more for a particular position.

Throwback to interaction with the 50m 3P Rifle Men’s Team (Akhil Sheoran, Aishwary Pratap Tomar and Swapnil Kusale) that won the Gold, with a World Record, at the Hangzhou AG22:


“If you ask me, I can say both kneeling and prone are my strengths, but there are days I have problems with the standing position, mainly posture issues. I have learnt to manage it.”

Looking at the results for the recently concluded trials in Bhopal, Kusale’s score in Trial 3  was 194 in Standing, as against 195 in Kneeling and 198 in Prone. In Trial 4, his score in Standing was 185, while he scored 194 each in Kneeling and Prone.

After the trials, he rested a few days before flying off to Munich. But overall, how is a normal day in his life when he is not shooting in a tournament? “I live a very simple life,” he said. “Simplicity is the key. I wake up early and go to the mandir (temple) to offer my prayers; come back, have my breakfast with the family, do some training, watch some series, and that’s it.”

Could he throw some light on the spiritual life and how it related to his sport? “I believe in God, and that’s a different thing, but if you see shooting as a sport, it requires lot of focus and calmness,” said Kusale. “Whenever I go to the mandir, I just feel a sense of calm and peace. It helps me to focus and keeps me mentally healthy.”

Everyone has their own way of maintaining mental peace. Some prefer going out on long walks, as Akhil Sheoran mentioned in a previous interview. Arjun Singh Cheema said he plays cricket and football. His spirituality is what keeps Kusale on even keel. “It feels that everything is going right whenever I step into the mandir,” he said.

With one and a half months more to go for Paris, the Indian shooting contingent has the potential for podium finishes, and to end the drought that goes back to London 2012. “I can’t predict what will happen in Paris but I am sure this time we have some medal hopes,” said Kusale. “I would say the credit goes to the athletes for their hard work, and also to the coaches and the trainers who work tirelessly to make the athletes ready for the elite stage.”

Kusale also spoke up in favour of elite shooters-turned-coaches. “Absolutely! They also shoot with us and they understand the mentality of the players really well because they were players themselves few years back,” he said. “The bonding is very good among the players and the coaches, that has helped a lot.”