She conquered her inner demons, spate of injuries and sharp-tongued critics who dismissed her as a "finished shooter", to win an "unbelievable" Arjuna award, something she never even dreamt of getting. Rahi Sarnovat, who created history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold medal in shooting, had almost retired in 2016 with a career threatening injury and never thought that she could perform at the top level again.
"Yes, I never thought I will win an Arjuna award one day. I almost gave up shooting two years back," Rahi told Republic TV after being conferred with the prestigious award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Tuesday evening.
Rahi had won the gold medal along with Anesa Sayeed in 25 metres women's pair pistol event in the Asian Games in Jakarta in August. The 27-year-old shooter from Kohlapur had shot to limelight after winning two gold medals in 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. But she could not repeat a similar feat in Incheon Asian Games and then a sudden dip in performance in subsequent years led many to believe that she had past her prime.
Critics started working overtime, busy in declaring her as a finished shooter. "I do not want to use words for my critics. My medals and awards are fitting reply to them," she said.
She had to work hard -- to reinstate her self belief, focus on the journey ahead and ignore the negativities from the outer world. And she emerged triumphant. Coming out of an almost retirement and clinching a gold in Asian Games and then an Arjuna award is a fairytale that is no where near an end.
President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the national sports awards at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Tuesday to celebrate the occasion of National Sports Day. The National Sports Awards ceremony, which is usually held on August 29 every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand, was forced to be re-scheduled on September 25 this year. The change in schedule was done because of the clash of dates with the 2018 Asian Games, which concluded on September 2 in Jakarta.
India garnered a record medal haul of 69 medals - consisting of 15 gold. 24 silver and thirty bronze, beating the previous best of 65 medals won at 2010 edition of the Asian Games held in Guangzhou.