V Krishnaswamy, a senior journalist has more than 30 years of experience of covering five Olympics, seven Asian Games, five Commonwealth, scores of World Championships and Majors in different sports, including chess and golf. He is also the author of the recently published “Sachin – Hundred hundreds Now”
There really is more pain than joy in finishing fourth, even at the Olympics. For one, there is no place for you on the podium. And you will be reminded of it for the rest of the life. Ask Milkha Singh or PT Usha.
Sure, they are proud of their achievements as are their followers, but every four years, as the Olympics approach, and people talk about near-misses. It is you they come to. And the pain returns.
Joydeep Karmarkar banged his fist against the floor soon after the finish when he realized he was fourth. But then he picked himself and even waved out to his colleagues, including Gagan Narang, who missed making the finals of the 50m Rifle Prone. Brave Karmakar!
Before this afternoon, Karmakar was better known for the ‘ammo’ he had lost. It had made for sporting headlines back home. He had lost his batch of ammunition in Hanover, Germany, where he trained before coming to London. So he was forced to train with ‘old’ ammo.
Hey, isn’t ammo just ammo? So what’s this old and new? Experts tell me ‘old’ ammo is like ‘old’ cricket balls or ‘old’ shuttles. They don’t have that ‘zip’. Now don’t ask me what ‘zip’ is in shooting. All I know is I was getting goose pimples and zing, as Karmakar shot at the Royal Artillery Barracks on Friday.
Karmarkar told no one save his sponsors—management company?— Mittal Champions Trust. Not even the Indian team coaches, including the chief coach, Sunny Thomas. These are strange days, indeed.
For the record, Karmakar is not as low profile as you would assume. He won the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold, he is the current Asian record holder with 599/600 and also won a silver in the World Cup in 2010, which helped him qualify for the Olympics.
Indian shooting has some real big names. But if one were to ask a list of India’s top shooters, ten times out of ten, Joydeep Karmakar’s name would not have figured in this list. The list would have Rajavardhan Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Ronjan Sodhi, Manavjit Sandhu and so on. But not Joydeep Karmakar. At least, not before this afternoon.
Maybe, there weren’t too many people expecting him to be on the podium—maybe, not even himself—but which sportsperson does not dream of standing there on the Olympic podium with a medal strung around his neck? Even Karamakar must have had this dream, even if he shared it with very few others, if any. They say he is a low-profile man.
So little wonder then the 32-year-old from Dum Dum in Kolkata, said, “There was no focus on me and few people talked about me, so that helped me in a way.”
But if you ask shooters, they say Joydeep was fantastic on Friday in the 50m Prone at the Royal Artillery Barracks. In the qualification, he may even have been written off after shooting 99-98-100-98 in a tight contest. But then he roared back with perfect scores in the last two sets to make it to 585.
With the top three—Belarussian Sergei Martynov (600), Belgian Lionel Cox (599), Slovenian Rajmond Debevec (596)—moving through clearly, there were nine shooters in a tie for the remaining five spots. Karmakar squeezed into the final as he tied for the fourth place in the shoot-off.
But in the final, Karmakar alone moved up. Seventh at the start of the final, he shot 104.1, the fourth-best, and moved to fourth, one short of the medal. Karmakar aggregated 699.1, which was 1.9 points behind bronze medallist, Debevec (701.1). Martynov (705.5) and Cox (701.2) stayed first and second.
Shooting is absolutely fascinating to watch. There is something very exciting as the scores pop up after each set of shots. The targets are there for you to see, ranging from 10m to 50m away and more, and sometimes up in the air, as in the trap and skeet events. Except in events like trap and skeet, where you see the clay 'birds' disintegrate in the air in colourful puffs, you cant make out what a shooter has just shot. So when the score appears on the screen, there is either a roar or a sigh.
It is a sport where men and women use big guns and slick pistols to hunt. And they are not hunting medals not big game. Medals, which they may or may not hang up on the wall when they get back home. But be sure, they love their guns, the way they handle them. Tenderly and almost lovingly. All sportspersons love their tools of trade, but in all other cases they can take them back to the room, and even their bed, if they want to.
But in the case of shooters, they have to deposit their weapons in the armoury each night during major competitions. So, their guns are something they get to see only when they are the range, at least during the competitions.
No wonder, when Sergei Martynov of Belarus was quizzed about his ld gun from the Soviet era, the 50m Prone Rifle winner quipped, “Well, a rifle isn’t a wife, but you have to look after it and give it tender, love care.” Ahem!
What all as he sacrificed to be here? “Well not much, apart from being away from my family and missing them.”
And what about the medal? “I will probably throw it in a drawer. I don’t put up medals up on the wall.” Don’t tell Karmakar about that!
Just for the record, Martynov also has bronze medals from the same event in 2000 and 2004.
Karmakar had a 45-year-old rifle when he first made to international rule shooting in 1993. And then he shot with a borrowed rifle. He made the Junior National Squad in 1997, but he still had no rifle of his own.
It was only in 2003 that he bought his own rifle and that with a loan and contribution from some friends. With little practice with the rifle, he won the nationals and the rest, as they say, is history. He has won the Nationals three times, won a Commonwealth Games gold and represented India in 17 World Cups.
And now he is also the first Indian shooter who finished fourth. So, India now has shooters, who have finished, first, second, third and fourth!
In the final, his first (10.1), sixth (10.2) and seventh (10.0) shots may have cost him the medal, but he has come a long way. And that is what sport is all about.