Palak Gulia must quickly refocus to defend air pistol quota - Hindustan Times
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Palak Gulia must quickly refocus to defend air pistol quota

ByAvishek Roy
Apr 16, 2024 12:34 AM IST

Securing the Olympic berth for India in Rio on Sunday isn’t job done. Her Paris spot will depend on the trials at home starting this week

Palak Gulia will have no time for a breather after securing the Paris Olympics quota for India in 10m air pistol on Sunday. The 18-year-old will have to get into the heat of the battle again to defend her quota in the Olympics selection trials at home starting on Thursday.

Shooter Palak Gulia(X/@India_AllSports)
Shooter Palak Gulia(X/@India_AllSports)

This is the first time India will pick the Olympic shooting squad based on domestic trials. Four trials will take place in Delhi (April 18-27) and Bhopal (May 10-19), which will test the three-year preparation of shooters for the Games from July 26 to August 11.

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Palak, who rose from relative obscurity to shoot down the 10m air pistol gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games, would hope to carry the momentum but the competition is expected to be tough. Manu Bhaker, Esha Singh and Rhythm Sangwan will all gun for the two air pistol quotas with Palak. Esha had earned the other quota spot.

"Shooters know that if you do not do well all your hard work of two or three years is going to go to waste. So, the pressure is going to be enormous and it is the first time that Olympic selection trials are happening," says 25m pistol coach Ronak Pandit.

Palak's coach Rakesh Singh believes that since his trainee has just won the quota it will work in her favour. "She is in a good frame of mind. She will go into the selection trials with a lot of confidence," says Singh, who has been training her in Faridabad.

The Asian Games gold marked Palak as a special talent. It was unexpected the way she made it to the India team and then beat a tough field. "Suddenly before the Asian Games, she did exceedingly well in the trials and got into the team. It was her first major international competition and it was amazing how she won an individual gold. After the Asian Games she was not in the team but again in the trials before the last qualifiers she did well and now has got a quota," says Pandit.

“It's like when she is pushed to the wall she ends up doing well. Now that she has won the quota, she has to defend it, and it is a different psychology. There is no gap between her quota and the trials and that will be a big test.”

After the Asian Games she struggled a bit and finished 25th at the Asian Championships. She could not then make it to the team for the qualifier in Jakarta. However, she stepped up just at the right time to seal the Olympic quota in the qualifying event in Rio, where she won a bronze medal.

"Once you suddenly win an Asian Games gold, it's only natural that all eyes will be on you. There will be pressure to perform every time. But the thing is that she has been able to fight back in the nick of time and give India a second quota in 10m air pistol, which is great.``

Palak’s personal coach Singh feels she is mature beyond her age.

"We worked on a few things after the Asian Games and she was able to do well in the trials to make it to the team. She is mentally strong and very mature. Her attention level at the time when she is in the firing lane is amazing and that's what counts in shooting," he says.

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