Shreya Aggarwal poses for photographers at the 10m range of the Rifle Club in Khanpur, Ahmedabad. She had won a silver medal in the mixed team event of the 10m air rifle discipline at the 36th National Games in Gujarat in partnership with her friend Aishwari Pratap Singh Tomar.
Among the officials, selfie hunters and other players waiting to congratulate her, Shreya would have missed the familiar face of her father, who succumbed to the virus during the second wave of COVID-19.
“Initially, my father used to travel with me to all the matches. I lost him in 2021 due to corona virus. Now I am doing all this for him. “I have always been inspired by him and how hard he worked to help me stay in sports even though people said I should study at this age,” she said.
Shreya says her father supported her even when she decided to skip her Class 12 exams to participate in the 2019 Asian Airgun Championship in Taiwan. Faith was rewarded with three gold medals (10m Air Rifle Junior, 10m Air Rifle Junior Team and 10m Air Rifle Junior Team. 10m Air Rifle Junior Mixed Team) and a junior world record score in the 10m Air Rifle Team event and 10m Air Rifle. and Junior Asian Record.
Now it is her coaches from Gagan Narang’s academy – Gun for Glory (GFG) – who travel with her to competitions. She has been with GFG since 2015 and admits that her personal coach Nishant Nathwani is now like her protective ‘elder brother’. While going on international tours, Shreya sends Nathwani her live locations whenever she books a taxi so that she doesn’t get into trouble when she can’t come.
“He looks after everything. I send him all my cab details when I book late. I also send him my live locations. So, he always keeps an eye on me. My family is confident that I am in good hands,” she says with a smile.
“If there’s something she’s not sure about, I’ll have to. Like ticket booking, take some decisions for her like sending her to some matches, some money thing… I have to handle everything,” Natwani adds.
Shreya’s shooting journey started when Kerala hosted the last National Games. Since then, the Jabalpur teenager always wanted to represent her state Madhya Pradesh – in the multi-discipline competition.
“It was a long time coming – my first Games medal. Finally, after a long gap of seven years, we are holding a National Games and I feel very happy. When I was in (Ryan International) school, we went to a national inter-school competition where I saw a shooting range. Till then there was no range that I knew of. That’s when I decided to join GFG. Their Jabalpur range was only one year old then and I was in class nine,” she says.
It was her teacher Narang who made Shreya fall in love with the sport after reading about it in a school textbook.
“My English or Hindi book had a chapter with a brief introduction on how Gagan sir did the shooting and won the medal. I then wondered how one would participate in the Olympics. It was such a privilege to have him there for me and the other shooters.
Shreya made it to the reserve squad during the Tokyo Olympics. It was also a time when she was recovering from a condition of the ulnar nerve in her right hand and had recently lost her father. She had many questions in her mind. For one, she approached her favorite senior Anjum Moudgil of the Indian shooting team for answers during a group discussion among rifle shooters. Anjum taught her about the importance of acceptance.
“She is the sweetest (Anjum). She said, ‘If you can accept the wins, you should always be open to accept the losses too, so it’s easier to get over them’.
Says Shreya, “Covid has not been a good time for a lot of people and for me. It was very short time (sic). My personal side has influenced me a lot in the field of shooting. I had doubts whether I would be able to perform in nationals (selection trials) as well. But I managed to top the rankings. I have started accepting as Anjum di Said. So, it’s still in an ‘on going’ stage… it’s a learning process.
Natwani explains sportsman How mentally tough Shreya is. He said, “She had a difficult time dealing with her. She was obviously heartbroken. The frustrating part is that she didn’t get help when she needed it. It’s nobody’s fault. The health care system was broken at the time…the dynamic between us changed. Even though I was a coach, off-lane I had to deal with a lot more than being a coach. Then there was the role of psychologist at GFG. At that time, Keerthika (Pandey) was helping her come to terms with the loss. She is a very strong girl, so within 15-20 days she was back on the lane and training again.
Shreya missed out on a World Championship seat by just 0.05 ranking points. After her performance in NGG 2022, she returned to the third position, but the selection process has already ended. Nathwani says there is a lot of testing going on in the background of changing Shreya’s kit and servicing the weapon.
Keeping Anjum’s words in mind, Shreya hopes to maintain her scintillating scores.