Pooja Ghatkar is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, with the support of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds and compete with her international counterparts.
Pooja Ghatkar, a 25-year-old air rifle shooter, created history this March after clinching gold at the Asian Air Gun Championship in Kuwait by defeating world champions Yi Siling and Du Bei of China.
Ghatkar has proven her talent at various international tournaments sports and plans to continue to shine at the international circuit in the upcoming World Cup competitions in Germany and Slovakia.
How were you introduced to this sport?
During my school days I started training under the National Cadet Corps as an extra activity. The main purpose behind this was to remain physically active. While going through the NCC camps, I was selected for the All India Thal Sainik Camp, Delhi, where I won a gold medal in the juniors category. But since I needed to focus on my academics at that point of time, I had to give up shooting. It was my mother’s belief and will that got me back into training for shooting again.
What is it like being a woman in a sport so closely associated with men?
For me, any sport is a sport, irrespective of whether the competitor is a man or a woman. Both require equal levels of stamina, hard work and concentration to excel. It is our mind which sets up these differences. In fact, I think shooting is more woman-oriented. If we check the participation levels in shooting matches, the number of women participants is far more than men. The best part of shooting is that there is no age bar for competing. Everyone can enjoy the sport.
How many hours a day do you have to practice?
My training depends on my annual competition schedule. Generally during a non-competition period I train for about 5-6 hours daily, which gradually increases as a match approaches.
What are the costs associated with your training?
Shooting is one of the most expensive of the sports. I am a rifle shooter and my basic requirements like rifle and shooting kit (jacket & trouser, shoes) cost around Rs 300,000. For my daily training, I need quality pellets to shoot, which cost Rs 900 for a tin with 500 pellets. In a year, I need approximately 80 pellet tins for training and matches.
I am also training under world record-holder Thomas Farnik. A seven-day training camp under him costs approximately Rs 300,000-350,000. These are a few important costs associated with my training.
How would you compare the standard of training in India to that which is available abroad?
India is still at a developing stage as compared to other marksman countries. The main drawback in India is the lack of quality Indian coaches. A coach plays a very important role in any athlete’s life. If we look at China, we find that each athlete has his or her own team, which includes a personal coach, physical trainer, mental trainer, doctor and nutritionist who work with them. All these people plan a perfect routine for the athlete. They consider each and every small aspect that can help the athlete improve. Such team work is not found in India. Every athlete needs good support and qualified people to show them the right way and to help them understand themselves better.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
After wining various domestic and international competitions, my biggest achievement was winning the gold medal at the Asian Airgun Championship, Kuwait in March 2014 by defeating the World No. 1 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist.
How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?
According to me, crowdfunding is one of the best ways in which an athlete is helped to conquer his or her dreams through the common man. People are able to know the athlete not after he or she wins an Olympic medal but before, and are able to help them on their road to success. Crowdfunding will boost my confidence as people’s support and blessings are very precious to me. Indirectly, it shows the trust people have in an athlete. So the dream of an athlete doesn’t remain only to himself or herself but it is shared and becomes the dream of all Indians.
Explain OGQ’s role in your life and career.
The difference in me before and after becoming a part of OGQ is vast. OGQ is like a strong ladder which is helping me climb each step firmly towards my goal. After OGQ offered to support me, everything changed. I received proper technique and physical and mental approach towards shooting. OGQ has supported me in acquiring my new rifle, pellets, shooting kit and other small requirements. The team has helped me in participating in international invitation matches which helped me gain international exposure. It was because of OGQ that I was able to train abroad under the world’s best coach. OGQ is like a family, which is always there to support you in times of need, push you when you feel low, drag you up when you are falling back and always be with you in each loss and win.