Palembang: Fifteen-year-old Shardul Vihan on Thursday became the youngest Indian shooter to win a medal at the Asian Games after he finished second in the men’s double trap here, extending the sensational run of teenaged marksmen from the country.
The Meerut-based Vihan shot 73 in the final after topping the qualification earlier in the day. The gold went to 34-year-old South Korean Hyunwoo Shin and bronze to 42-year-old from Qatar, Hamad Ali Al Marri.
Usually, the shotgun competitions are dominated by older shooters but not today. Vihan, a class 10 student of Dayawati Modi Academy in Modipuram, was unfazed by the presence of experienced shooters double his age. The bronze winner is almost triple his age.
Sixteen-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary, who also has a Meerut connection, had made history by winning the gold in the 10m pistol here on Tuesday. Vihan’s silver was India’s eighth medal from the Jakabaring Shooting Range.
It may seem sensational but the young Indian shooters are making a habit of winning medals at the big stage. Anish Bhanwala was 15 and Manu Bhaker 16 when they had won a gold each at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
Vihan took to shooting seriously only four years ago, under the tutelage of Shamli-based coach Anwar Sultan, who witnessed his student’s success in person. “The moment he came to me I knew he would excel at whatever he does. Be it table tennis or badminton or any other sport. He has an amazing muscle memory. Now I will prepare him for the trap event,” said Sultan, looking at the future as double trap is no more an Olympic sport.
He is a rare talent who works extremely hard on his game. His uncle Manoj Vihan, who was also here, revealed his punishing schedule. “He wakes up at five in the morning every day, goes to Karni Shooting Rane (in Delhi) from Meerut, and comes back only by nine in the night. Imagine a 15-year-old doing all this,” said Manoj.
Vihan comes from a business family who is into property and farming. He tried cricket and then badminton before settling at shooting.
“I won a shooting medal in 2014 at a North Zone meet. That was it (when I knew what I would be doing for a long time),” said a supremely confident Vihan, who only began with a shotgun and fell in love with it.
He had a sensational 2017 when he amassed four national titles and the cherry on the cake was a medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Germany.
No wonder he was fearless against competitors more than double his age.
India coach Mansher Singh had given Vihan a timely advice after he had played his daily round of PUBG, a shooting video game, with his friend and fellow shooter Lakshay Sheoran at the Games Village last night.
“Sir ne bola, kal sab tere se badi umar ke honge. Chad ke khelna (all competitors will be a lot older to you, just shoot fearless and they will be wary of you). I just did that,” said the child prodigy.
There were no signs of fatigue even though he was out in scorching sun for almost four hours, having topped the qualification earlier.
“I was as fresh as ever,” said the shooter, who also likes to cook besides his video game bingeing.
Can he make an omelette? “Of course I can make some really good Aaloo Jeera also. I like to cook whenever I can,” added Vihan.
That was when National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh, who was standing close to him, veered into the conversation.
“I want to know when you are having your first shave?” he asked.
After all, the boy had become a man.
India’s other representation in men’s double trap, Ankur Mittal, did not make the final. Shreyasi Singh and Varsha Varman also disappointed, finishing sixth and seventh in women’s double trap.