Ayonika Paul targets gold at World Championship, Asian Games

Mumbai: Ayonika Paul, who grabbed a silver medal in the 10M Air Rifle event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last Saturday, has set her sights on an Olympic medal in 2016 though her immediate aim is to clinch gold at next month`s World Championship followed by the Asian Games.

"I want to win a medal in the 2016 Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)," she told the students and teachers of Swami Vivekanand High School and Junior College in Chembur where she spent 12 years as student.

She will travel to Vienna next week to continue her training ahead of the September 6-20 World Championships in Granada, Spain and the September 19-October 4 Asian Games in Incheon.

She said in both these events she wants nothing less than gold medals.

Ayonika finished second behind the compatriot and gold medal winner Apurvi Chandela of Rajasthan in Glasgow.

Apurvi led from the beginning in the main round to win the yellow metal with a score of 206.7 while Ayonika finished a creditable second with a score of 204.9.

Ayonika, who qualified for the final with a fourth position in the preliminaries, was not in medal contention till the first 10 shots but she was brilliant in the back 10 as she regularly fired 10.5 to 10.7 to improve her position.

"I and my sister owe a lot to the school. A lot of hard work has gone for this medal, but school and teachers helped me a lot by giving internal exams and sparing me for competitions," Ayonika said at the felicitation function.

Principal Bina Gole said, "Ayonika first came to this school as a tiny KG student. Now, she is back with us with a silver medal. We look forward to seeing her coming back again with an Olympic medal."

Sashwati Sengupta, who taught Ayonika for five years, also remembered her as a jovial student. "But only problem was that she had to miss classes for the sports. Still she was good at studies," she recalled.

The Chembur girl, in fact, started as a swimmer at the age of three, mainly because her father Ashim Paul is a swimming coach with Railways, but then she decided to opt for shooting while she was in class eight.

"After the first competition, I felt, I can try it," she said. But it was a strenuous journey.

"We did not have enough to support her ambition or facilities for the training. I had to take a loan from my office to buy her the first rifle, a German-made Feinwerkbau," Ashim said.

"I wanted to support her at any cost, when she wanted to try it. It was hard, financially and physically," he added.

Ayonika has been consistent after starting with 10m Air Rifle event. She shot a world class score of 503 (398+105) at KSS Memorial Championship in Delhi in 2012 to beat the likes of Anjali Bhagwat and Suma Shirur.

But Ayonika, winner of a bronze in the Asian juniors in Kuwait in 2011, also narrowly missed the London Olympic Qualification at the Asian Championships in Doha in 2012.

She had announced her arrival at the international stage by winning gold medal at an international junior competition in Munich in 2008 before going on to win multiple medals in the junior nationals.

In the past two years she has won multiple medals in senior nationals against some strong competitors.

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