Hyderabad:“This is a golden silver for me.” Those words of Gagan Narang sum up the City shooter’s abundant joy on clinching the second place in the men’s 50-metre Prone event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Indeed, the Olympic bronze medallist wasn’t even sure he’d be able to pull the trigger a year ago, and has spent “many sleepless nights” over it.
“I had suffered a slip disc in the neck and my right arm went numb, moreso the index finger, the one you shoot with. I did not know if I would be able to get back the same feeling in the finger as you know shooting largely depends on the index finger and how sharply you can command and control it. I was totally down after this career threatening injury, and so, this silver is like the gold for me,” a gleeful Gagan told this correspondent on Monday.
“The injury had developed during the 2012 Olympics in London with a catch in the neck but went unnoticed. It popped up when I started training after the Olympics for the next season. I had many sleepless nights. The doctors asked me to get operated but I consulted Olympic Gold Quest (an non-profit organisation floated by former Olympians to identify and nurture talent that can win India the big medal) and they suggested bed rest and complete rehab. So there I was, in bed for eight agonising months,” the 31-year-old explained.
The neck injury also forced Gagan to shift from his favourite Air Rifle event, in which he had won the Olympic bronze. “I felt hollow without shooting my main event here. Shifting focus to prone in which I had the least experience, I did not feel solid ground under my feet. It left me very stressed. It was double trouble,” Gagan said.
“It feels good to win my first ever prone medal too,” the Hyderabadi added. This is India’s first silver medal in the Prone event at CWG. Gagan had to shift to Prone “because the neck injury aggravates in Air Rifle position when you need to twist your neck towards your left side 90 degrees.”Over a period of lost time, he “wasn’t in good enough form in the Air Rifle event by the time the selections came up. So I started training for Prone (in which the shooter has to lie flat on the ground, with chest down). I am glad I managed a medal.”
Having been through a lot of pain, Gagan was thankful to those who stood by him in tough times. “I would want to acknowledge the enormous support I got from my parents, coach Stanislas Lapidus who always pushes me to train hard, the Olympic Gold Quest, my employers Air India, my sponsors Sahara India, my mind trainer Vaibhav Agashe and all my friends and well wishers for helping me come out of the terrible injury period,” he said.