Rudrankksh Balasaheb Patil was simultaneously taking two tests in two different cities in November: the Senior National Shooting Championships in Bhopal and his 12th boards in Thane. He would take an early morning flight to Mumbai after his match days, write his papers and rush to the airport for an evening flight to Bhopal. In 10 days, Patil made six trips. At the end of what he called an exhausting and exciting phase, Patil had established his credentials in the senior national squad in 10m air rifle and was equally satisfied with the first part of the humanities tests.
“The flight attendants came to know me,” said the 18-year-old with a laugh. “I could barely catch a breath during that period but in the end it was worth taking the pain.”
The Thane teenager currently tops the selection rankings. In September, Patil’s first major breakthrough came when he won silver at the ISSF Junior World Championships in Peru, giving a tough fight to Tokyo Olympics gold medallist William Shaner of the USA. Since then Patil has consistently shot high scores in domestic competition and selection trials.
“The silver medal was very big. The tournament coming after a two years’ gap due to Covid-19 was an opening I was looking forward to. The hard work I had put in alone in a range in Thane during that period was fruitful,” said Patil whose parents are police officers.
He had managed to get special permission to train in a nearby range. “To train alone for one and half years was lonely, tiresome and sometimes irritating. But my parents told me that you have got an opportunity to train that many shooters are not getting, so better utilise it. I worked on my game, did a lot of research, participated in online competitions and slowly I could see improvement.”
At the senior national championships, Patil won silver behind Tokyo Olympian Divyansh Panwar in senior and junior finals. He competed in his first ISSF World Cup in Cairo last month and finished 11th.
“I love travelling and it is motivating to be part of the India team. One thing I have developed recently is to forget things. Though I have a very good memory, in shooting you need to shut your mind and shoot. I am enjoying it and not thinking about being India No.1 or ranking and scores. You can keep shooting well in practice but the important part is to bring that ability into competitions.”
Patil will have two big competitions coming up next month – the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl (May 9), followed by the ISSF World Cup in Baku (May 27).
His coach Ajit Patil, who has trained some of India’s best talent including 2006 junior world champion Navnath Fartade, said his ward has the potential to go far. “He has good technique and he is always keen to learn and improve. He is showing good progress that has brought him till here. He is steady and as he competes more, he will get better,” said the coach.
Patil is among the new crop that has emerged after the Tokyo Olympics, from where a highly-rated and hyped young squad returned without a medal. Former international and coach Joydeep Karmakar said this bunch needed to be groomed carefully.
“The kind of high scores these youngsters are shooting is very encouraging. They need international competitions this year to prepare for Asian Games and World Championships that will also offer quota to the Paris Olympics,” said the Olympian.
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