After Tokyo low, Mehuli Ghosh trains her sights for Olympics again
Mehuli Ghosh is shooting with renewed purpose and determination. A medal from the world championships, Paris Olympics quota and consistently high scores demonstrate a new-found belief in her abilities.
It has taken the immensely talented rifle shooter from Kolkata two years to make a comeback. Though she was never out of sight, she was mentally broken after failing to make it to the team for the Tokyo Olympics. A change of city and a training overhaul have helped her to gradually step up again.
Since 2021, Mehuli, who moved out of Kolkata, is based in Hyderabad and trains at the Gun For Glory Academy under former shooter Bibaswan Ganguly. A team comprising a psychologist, physiotherapist and nutritionist has been a constant support along the way.
“After Tokyo Olympics I went through a low phase, I wasn’t shooting great. It was almost like starting afresh, paying attention to every small detail from technique, fitness, diet and mental toughness. My coach pushed me to fightback. It was not easy, but I am seeing the results now,” says Mehuli, 22, who will carry this form and confidence into the Hangzhou Asian Games starting on September 23.
“My performance has improved gradually. If you see my result at the world championships in Cairo last year, I missed the final by 0.3 point, but it was a positive step from where I was a year ago.”
It was a big improvement from 2021 when she was struggling with a knee injury and loss of confidence. Standing in the firing lane, Mehuli would not know when she would buckle under pressure in competitions.
“When a player puts so much hard work to achieve a target but does not get it, fear settles in the mind. Mehuli was facing a similar situation. The Tokyo setback was big for her. She was also in pain during matches as the knee injury aggravated,” says coach Ganguly.
“A player needs support in such times. It took four months for the injury to heal. A psychologist worked with her for four months and travelled to every competition last year. Gradually, she started showing signs of regaining form and confidence. She is very stubborn and if she sets her mind to achieving something she will do it,” he says.
The return to form happened at the Asian Airgun Championships last November when she swept three gold medals in individual, team and mixed team events. At the world championships in Baku last month, Mehuli topped qualification shooting a brilliant 634.5 before clinching bronze, behind China’s Han Jiayu and Wang Zhilin.
“We went to the competition with a mental approach that it was going to be her only chance to grab a quota. We told her there is no second chance, we have to do it in Baku. If she wins a medal at the Asian Games, it will boost her further,” says Ganguly.
In fact, training in the last two years has been with focus on the Paris Olympics. The early quota will help her prepare for the Games. She will have to be at her best though to win the home trials and keep her Olympic place secure. For Tokyo, she was in the reckoning and gave a tough fight to Apurvi Chandela, Elavenil Valarivan and Anjum Moudgil – the first two were eventually selected.
“I have learned at every step. I now know what the fight is all about, how much competition is there at this level. The knowledge is helping me plan better in every aspect, be it my schedule, recovery or even working on the small muscles that are needed in shooting,” says Mehuli, who first came into spotlight after winning silver in the Youth Olympics (2018) and Commonwealth Games.
“One factor that really gives you an edge is mental toughness. It is about how good and how confident you are in big-match pressure situations. You need to shoot as if the world doesn’t exist. You need to be very determined. There should not be any doubt in your mind, even for a second. I am working towards building such confidence before the Paris Olympics.”
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