“Even if we’re standing still, our heart beats and that minutest vibration affects our sport. When we shoot, we breathe out just half the oxygen we breathe in. We can hold on to that breath for about ten seconds before our entire body starts shivering. That’s when we have to take the shot, within those seven seconds when there is a minimum movement of the body.”
That’s how nerve-jangling a sport Aniket Mane professes in. Currently at rank 15, Aniket is comfortably among the top-50 shooters in India but there was a time when one would have been hard-pressed to believe it would ever come to fruition for the 23-year old, “It’s always sad when you don’t do well. But I went through a phase of five to six years where I didn’t get any good results,” he says.
Initially taking up the sport as a way to pick up extra marks in school during his eighth standard, Aniket soon got deep into it.
“I wasn't doing well so I changed my routine. I, along with a fellow shooter in Mumbai, decided to set up a routine that would boost our performances - every morning we went to Shivaji Park at 6 AM. We would wake up at 5 AM, take a train to Shivaji Park, then run, practise Surya Namaskar, have breakfast, then practice some more and return home at 6 PM,” recounts Aniket.
“But it was always in the back of my mind that I have started something, therefore I should respect it and continue doing it. And by then, I believed that I have something inside me which makes me play this sport. My routine never changed though.”
It was when he decided to change his shooting pattern, which he credits to Biswajeet Shinde, his current coach of three and a half years, that things really started looking up. “He fine-tuned my technique and I could maximize my performance. He changed the way I held the weapon. This made me a lot comfortable in my stance and that brought results,” explains Aniket.
Aniket’s early start in shooting meant his family always had expectations, which he felt hard-pressed to bear, given their constant support in this rather niche sport. “That is perhaps the only reason why I never gave up and kept following my timetable. I used to push myself harder in practice because I wanted to return some reward for my family’s love and support,” says Aniket.
However, if the expectations of his family were hard to bear, the weight of a nation should have caved his shoulders in. Instead, that is when he shone the brightest! Playing alongside the likes of Abhinav Bindra and Gagandeep Singh Bhangu, Aniket represented India in the International Shooting competition in Hanover, Germany and finished with world Rank 18th and India was placed at number four, narrowly missing a medal.
Not an easy road to Deutschland
However, no sooner did Aniket land in Hanover, than his problems started multiplying like hot popcorn at the movies. “I realized that the optical sight of my gun broke during travel,” he explains, “hence all my shots were off target. There was no store or stall to replace the sight on my Walther. Luckily, a friend who used the same gun had an extra sight.”
“Then my kit got rejected due to getting thicker and stiff in the cold. I had no other option but to work with the kit I had, so every day I used to rub the jacket with a blade to decrease the thickness. I would do it and it would shrink. Next morning it would thicken up again. The officials used to watch me do this daily until one of the officials walked up to me and said that I will be allowed to shoot in this event but I need to be careful about my clothing in the future. This was a huge sigh of relief!”
Ultimately, Aniket scored 619.5. Abhinav Bindra, who scored an Individual bronze had a score of 626.1. Apart from this, Aniket also won the Mayors Cup, “I was weak from jaundice before the nationals but I played and scored three golds for Maharashtra.”
Looking down the barrel
The future is certainly looking bright for young Aniket. “I want to get into the senior Indian squad. My aim to play in the 2024 Olympics. I have my own routine that I follow and the first thing I want is to get into the national side,” he says with an air of confidence and yearning.