From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.05 :: Jan. 31, 2009

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SHOOTING / PROFILE

Begumpet sleeps, Gagan soars

Most striking of his prized possessions is the glistening glass trophy he clinched recently in the World Cup Final in Bangkok, Thailand. That gold-medal winning feat found him first equalling the world record with a perfect score of 600/600 and theneclipsing Thomas Farnik’s landmark of 703.1 with a stunning 703.5 in the 10-metre air rifle. Joseph Antony calls on Gagan Narang.

NAGARA GOPAL

Gagan Narang... the bull’s eye man.

Flat feet grounded Gagan Narang’s dreams of a defence career. The Indian Air Force’s loss was sport’s gain however as the Hyderabad native went on to leave his stamp on the international shooting firmament.

Flying and shooting seem intertwined when taking in the décor of his tastefully done-up dwelling. As models of jets abound indoors, aircraft drone down the runway that lies parallel to his second floor apartment, commanding a panoramic view of the Begumpet airport, which until recently enjoyed its unique status of location in the heart of a city.

The hangars to the right had been a happy hunting ground for his father B. S. Narang, who retired as Chief Manager (Engineering), Indian Airlines. But for defence or training aircraft taking off or touching down, what was once a bustling destination now wears a deserted look.

The expansive emptiness across the balcony is in stark contrast to the glass displays of the adjoining room, crammed with medals from the world over.

Atop the cupboard is a portrait of a beaming Gagan, receiving his Arjuna Award from former President Abdul Kalam. Diagonally opposite stands the statuette of the legendary archer, his bow and arrow aimed upwards. Awards jostle for space, achievements ranging from the Asian to the international arenas.

Most striking of his prized possessions is the glistening glass trophy he clinched recently in the World Cup Final in Bangkok, Thailand. That gold-medal winning feat found him first equalling the world record with a perfect score of 600/600 and then eclipsing Thomas Farnik’s landmark of 703.1 with a stunning 703.5 in the 10-metre air rifle. Gagan had more than made up for the heart-rending reversal that eliminated him from the elite eight of the Beijing Olympics on countback.

Chubby cheeks and a soft-spoken front may not present a fighting figure, but his forebears hail from Panipat, pivotal in the course of India’s history. Even in the shooting fraternity, admirers admit he has nerves of steel wrapped around which walks a cool customer, quick to clamber back from the brink.

In the collection of curios are a cuckoo clock from the Black Forest in Germany and another with ivory hands. Cigarette lighters come in the shape of rifles, bullets and cartridges, even if he doesn’t smoke. Instead, he relishes a sip of Scotch now and then, a string of short glasses from exotic destinations adding to the array of exhibits.

VIVEK BENDRE

Though supported by the Olympic Gold Quest Fund, floated by Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi, the good-looking gunman’s brand value potential has remained untapped.

“Elders need love not money,” says the headline of a news clipping pasted at his work station. That’s just one indication of his affection for his retired parents. The squabbles with his dad are several but to the senior Narangs ‘Gagan’s our treasure.’ They dote on him no end, especially indulging his fondness for food. When representing Affalterbach in the Bundesliga, the German shooting league, the avowed foodie took time off to bake Christmas cookies, rich in almonds and coated with marzipan.

The magnificent marksman has tasted every kind of meat on almost every continent and has a weakness for the famed Hyderabadi biriyani. Not surprisingly, he’s often engaged in the ‘battle of the bulge,’ the digital weighing machine in his room an ever-present reminder to fight the flab.

Shedding too much weight too soon brings its own share of problems, one of them being his competition jacket hanging loose, endangering stability of his shooting position and that of his Walther LG 300 Alutec rifle.

His fascination for gizmos and gadgets has only grown from his Bachelor of Computer Applications qualification. A sleek laptop is his constant companion, the crackshot dismantling and sorting out a major glitch even after the company technician threw his hands up in despair. His penchant for photography is well known, the collection of portraits close to 70,000. Many of them were used for his book, ‘The Commonwealth Journey from Melbourne to New Delhi.’

Gagan has featured on the calendars of Walther, the world-renowned rifle maker, and Indianshooting.com, but strangely corporate sponsorship he so badly needs, never seems to show up. Though supported by the Olympic Gold Quest Fund, floated by badminton and billiards maestros Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi, the good-looking gunman’s brand value potential has remained untapped.

The longevity of his career is still to sink in, the average age in international shooting being in excess of 40 years. He’s just 25, with so many accomplishments already against his name. Nattily dressed always, the magic of movies holds him captivated, as much as he’s logged on to the 42” LCD TV that keeps the family abreast of the latest happenings through news channels.

A baseball club is upright in a corner but other sports don’t fascinate him. A fishing net curtain separates his space and room from the rest of the residence, not that his parents are the least intrusive. His own world’s limited to cupboards for his rifles and other shooting gear, while on the floor two mattresses make up his bed, sans a cot.

He shed not a tear when flesh dangled from his right finger after a childhood accident on a swing with his Kashmiri friend. The doctor declared Gagan a bold guy. Such bravery still makes frequent appearances and should see him scale greater heights in the fiercely competitive world of international shooting.



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