Achievements

‘Rifle-shooting is a sport combining mind and body’ says Aalia from Apeejay School

Aalia Jawad Khatib, a rifle-shooter and class 7 student at Apeejay School, Kharghar talks about how she chose the sport after her sister

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Winning a silver medal at the 10 meter open sight rifle-shooting in the 12th RR Lakshya Cup 2021 held at Karnala Sports Academy in Panvel, Mumbai, Aalia Jawad Khatib, never imagined that a few months of practice at the sport would get her there. Post her achievement, in an interview, the spirited teenager talks about how she started at the sport, her journey and aspirations. Edited excerpts:  

Have you always been a sports person?

Initially, I used to play Handball at school. I have also been part of International Inter-school competitions to represent India in countries such as Sweden, Germany and Denmark. I have been practicing skating as well. However, during one of my handball competitions at the Semi-finals, I injured my left leg. I then switched to rifle-shooting because I wanted to continue pursuing sports and felt that such an incident should not hamper my growth.      

What inspired you to pursue rifle-shooting?

My sister, Afrah Jawad Khatib, who is a class 10 student at Apeejay School, Kharghar. She started rifle-shooting about 2 years ago and through her journey and progress, I got inspired. She recently played Nationals at Bhopal and after her, I recently started my stint at the sport. This is my first victory, honestly, I just wanted to perform and see where my skill and practice takes me. It came as a surprise when I was announced a winner with a silver medal. I am looking forward to more National and International-level competitions.

How do you practice rifle-shooting these days?

I go to the Pillai rifle-shooting range in Navi Mumbai, it is about half an hour away from my home. I spend 4-5 hours a day there to practice.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I start quite early and finish school at 2 pm. Then, I have my lunch during the last period of the school and change my clothes to leave from home for the shooting range. I reach there by around 3:30 and start my warm-up exercises. After that, I start my practice which goes on till 6 pm. From 7 to 8 pm, I have my coding classes, an additional skill that I want to learn early on. Later, I work on my homework, studies etc. and I sleep by 12 at night.  

Are you looking to make a career from rifle-shooting?

Yes, very much. My sister, Afrah and I both dream to compete at the International level for rifle-shooting and as of now, we are preparing for it. We hope to represent our country at the Olympics someday.

Who is your sports role model?

I look up to Suma Shriur Ma’am, the rifle-shooter who received the prestigious Arjuna award by the Government of India for the sport. She is a mentor and I admire her very much.

For a sport like rifle-shooting, what is the most important learning?

To keep your physical and mental health in check. One has to have a positive bent of mind while shooting because if that is not there, you won’t be able to concentrate. Mental well-being forms 60 percent of your game, and so my sister and I take yoga classes regularly for it. Before starting my practice each day, I do concentration exercises for about 10 minutes to achieve that focus.

Your tips for those wanting to start at the sport?

Well, this is not a sport that can be acquired in a short span of time. So if you want to ace it, you would have to give it many hours. Focus on your physical fitness before starting at it because holding the rifles at a certain angle will become challenging. Often, one experiences a sore neck and back, if they are not physically fit for it.  

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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