New Delhi: Saying religion and the Olympic sport of shooting in the same breath may sound unusual but Iranian air rifle coach Zaire, who trains a well-known triumvirate of young shooters in his country, feels their religion drives the bulk of Iranians to take up the sport.
Zaire's famous wards include, among others, Najmeh Khedmati, who has won a gold medal in the 8th Asian Air Gun Championship en route to setting a world record at the Dr Karni Singh Range, Fatemeh Karamzadeh and Maryan Shafiel Pour.
"We are Muslims and our religion advocates the need to engage in sports like shooting and swimming. That motivates us to take up the sport. We believe in that and besides shooting, the same is the case with swimming," Zaire tells PTI.
"It says it's always good to be involved in physical activity and be healthy," he adds.
Zaire is doing his bit for his country by training shooters who are winning laurels in international sporting events in Asia and elsewhere.
And Khedmati is one of them. Though she still shoots in the junior category, the 19-year-old girl has already secured a quota for next year's Rio Olympic Games at the World Cup in Azerbaijan.
The world record she set today in junior air rifle, though, will not be recognised by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) as the number of participants was less than the required 11 in the qualification.
She, however, has no regrets.
"So what," she tells when told that this will not get recognition.
"I will shoot again in Kuwait (in the Asian Shooting Championship in November) and try to win another medal with a world record. So, no regrets, I will get another chance again," a confident Khedmati says.
Khedmati, studying at the University of Brijand, started shooting four years ago and within two months of picking up the gun, she was selected to represent the national team.
Ask her if she is encouraged enough back in her country, and she says 'yes'.
"My parents are encouraging me all the time. They are happy that I am doing well for myself and my country."
Zaire says though there is not enough corporate support back home, the government does provide assistance to the athletes.
"They are always into football. No corporate support, no sponsorship, but the government supports us. They have paid for our expenses to travel to India and participate in this competition," Zaire says.