In-form shooter Jitu Rai eyes podium finish in Commonwealth Games

New Delhi: Transiting from anonymous to well-known, shooter Jitu Rai is "very hopeful" of a podium finish in the upcoming Commonwealth Games, the confidence emanating from the historic back-to-back medals, including a gold, he had shot in the ISSF World Cup recently.

The double in Maribor, Slovenia earlier this month -- a first in the history of Indian shooting in World Cup, was preceded by a silver in the ISSF World Cup in Munich.

"This performance will help me in the long run definitely, but as of now, I am pretty confident of winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow," Jitu told PTI today.

Impressed with his recent performances, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) today rewarded the 27-year-old pistol shooter with a cash award of Rs 5 lakh.

The Lucknow-born Rai, who is based in the Army Marksman Unit in Mhow, will be competing in the free pistol event in CWG.

He had won a silver in air pistol in Munich before winning another in Maribor to go with his gold medal in the same event.

Rai said India`s pistol coach Pavel Smirnov played a big role in his transformation from a shooter who was once sent back from the Mhow trials after a bad performance.

"Pavel sir has helped me a lot, especially with my technique, he is very good at that. Even the army coach was of help, and so were all the national coaches," he said.

Rai`s story has been one of a struggle, with the shooter losing his father way back in 2006.

"My mother has worked a lot ever since. She is a farmer and does her best to make ends meet so that we don`t suffer," Rai, who has got a younger as well as one elder brother, said.

"Everything is going good now," an optimist Rai, who is being looked after by non-profit organisation Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), added.

Recalling his introduction to the sport, Rai said, "In 2006 December I joined Army`s 11 Gorkha regiment centre, where I was introduced to shooting. I was sent to Mhow trials but was sent back from there after a bad performance.

"Then I started training in air pistol with a renewed vigour and participated in my first nationals in 2009. In 2011, I won three medals and on July 19, 2011, I was called by Army Marksman Unit.

"After a quiet 2012, the following year I started doing well. In the nationals, I won silver in air pistol and finished on top in free pistol, which earned me a chance to compete in international events," said Rai.

The achievement in Maribor was the first instance when an Indian shooter won two medals in a World Cup championship.

"My first international event was in Korea and I finished in top-7 in final. I won one silver and one bronze in the 2013 Asian Air Gun championship in Iran. In the 2014 tournament in Kuwait, I won three silver, and also shot well in the Fort Benning World Cup in USA. That`s when I thought I could win medals in top international events."

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