Ayushi Podder from West Bengal paired with Amartya Mukherjee and clinched gold in the 10m air rifle mixed event of the Khelo India Youth Games on January 15. With this victory, 19-year-old Podder will not only fulfilling her dream of representing India in the Olympics but will also give wings to her father, Pankaj Podder's aspirations. Pankaj is an active shooter in the Indian Railways shooting team and still competes to win, however, lack of funds kept Olympics for him as a far-off dream.
Shortly after the winning the medal, Ayushi said, “My dream is to represent India in the Olympics; it is something that my father could not manage due to financial constraints. You may not believe it but we train together, each preparing for our own competition”.
Pankaj runs an academy in Hooghly and coaches nearly 12 to 14 shooters apart from her own daughter. Therefore, Ayushi elaborated how the sport has been a part of her life since birth and was expected to take up shooting at some point of her life. The 19-year-old finally tried her hands on the 'expensive sport' in 2013 and Ayushi's family struggled to provide equipment. However, Khelo India scheme eased the burden of funds of shooting and paved a way for her to compete without any financial burden.
Ayushi said, “It was quite difficult for us to procure equipment before the Khelo India scheme began, especially the 50m events which require the rifle and ammunition. But I have a decent number of sponsors now so we are good”.
Furthermore, this father-daughter duo has already planned a way till 2024 Olympics which would require Ayushi to move from one category to another seamlessly. The proud father mentioned that his daughter is doing well in 50m rifle 3 positions women and called it her “main event”. According to Pankaj, shooters have a chance to lose their grip on the sport during the transition from one category to other.
“What we have to ensure is that Ayushi moves from one category to the other seamlessly. I've seen shooters lose a grip on the sport when they move from the junior category to the senior category or the youth category to the junior category. We want to ensure that Ayushi handles the transition well," Pankaj revealed.