Sanjay Chakravarty: A great grassroots coach who showed Indian shooters the path to glory

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In the winter of 1988, Anjali Bhagwat stood at the firing level of the Maharashtra Rifle Association’s capturing vary in South Mumbai, fumbling with a rifle and struggling to load ammunition. The National Championship was simply seven days away. But that was not the motive Bhagwat had hit the ranges – she was there as a part of her National Cadet Corps (NCC) coaching.

“At NCC, it was only about (shot) grouping (to measure consistency and accuracy) and line positioning. I did not even know shooting was a sport,” Bhagwat says.

From a distance, a veteran shooter, holding a cup of tea in a single hand and a cigarette in one other, watched Bhagwat’s struggles. “Without hesitation, he walked up to me and taught me the basics,” Bhagwat, who not simply competed at the Nationals days later but in addition gained a silver medal, says. “That moment changed my life and the entire credit for that goes to Sir.”

‘Sir’ is former India worldwide shooter-turned-coach Sanjay Chakravarty, who handed away in Mumbai on Saturday due to Covid-19. He was 79.

Bhagwat was one in all the first shooters Chakravarty took underneath his wings. And from the years that adopted, the Dronacharya Awardee produced shooters who have gained a whole lot of medals in worldwide tournaments, together with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Cup and the Olympics. Some of them who skilled underneath him embrace Deepali Deshpande, Suma Shirur, Anuja Jung, Gagan Narang and Ayonika Paul.

In the course of, Chakravarty performed an necessary function in creating the sport through which India is now one in all the powerhouses in the world. “He was the first one to hold our hands and show us the way. We owe our entire career, entire life to him,” says Suma, a former world report holder and an Arjuna Awardee. “Who knew shooting is a sport! And 25 years ago, who could have dreamt about going to the Olympics? He showed us the dream, showed us the way.”

Self-taught

After a modest enjoying profession, Chakravarty began teaching at a time when the sport – particularly rifle and pistol occasions – was nonetheless in the nascent phases of its improvement in the nation.

Chakravarty, who learnt the fundamentals of the sport throughout his time with the Navy, was largely self-taught as a coach. “We learnt a lot of things on the go and he made our basics very strong,” Suma says. “But he focused a lot on psychological training, which was mostly unheard of in the early 1990s.”

Chakravarty wrote articles on the significance of visualisation in capturing, ready shooters to stay powerful mentally and targeted on understanding, and balancing, the physique, provided that the tiniest of actions can spoil a shot.

The lack of infrastructure, although, made technical coaching powerful. The tools was not simply accessible, ranges have been few – Bhagwat says there was a time in the starting once they used to practise for 50m occasions however chopping the goal measurement and placing it on the 25m vary.

Narang calls Chakravarty a ‘great grassroots-level coach who made champions.’ “During that time, it wasn’t about technique because getting an opportunity to train was a big task in itself. So, he did all he could to motivate us to keep continuing in spite of the challenging situations,” the Olympic bronze medallist, who was coached by Chakravarty throughout his early days, says. “His style was to recognise the strengths in you and build on them. He would be jovial and motivate you to realise your potential.”

In an interview with Scroll in 2018, Chakravarty mentioned he didn’t marry ‘because shooting was everything for me.’ His college students attest to that. Ashok Karande, a former marksman, says Chakravarty would spend the entire day travelling to capturing ranges and schools throughout Mumbai to coach children.

“He would not wait for a shooter to approach him, as is the case usually with coaches. If he saw potential in someone, he would volunteer to coach and never bothered about money. In the 18 years I have known him, he never coached for money,” Karande says.

Even after he was identified with gut most cancers at the age of 70, Chakravarty didn’t cease teaching. “He would tell his family he is going downstairs for a short walk but then take an auto to the nearest range,” Karande provides.

Chakravarty leaves behind a big legacy. After he set the ball rolling in the late 80s and early 90s, shooters began sprouting from completely different areas of Maharashtra. The state, in addition to its capital Mumbai, now boasts of first rate infrastructure whereas Chakravarty’s trainees have now turned to teaching and run academies.

Narang says the Dronacharya Award bestowed upon him in 2017 was a becoming tribute. “He could have stuck to one of his shooters and coached him or her till the Olympics. But he did not want recognition for himself. He instead continued to work behind the scenes and produced many talented shooters. In that sense, he was a great grassroots-level coach.”

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