At the age of 15, most of us are busy playing video games or hanging out with friends. For the ones who are into sports, even they see it merely as a means to remain physically and socially active.
But it’s not the same for 15-year-old Anish Bhanwala whose outstanding calibre made the CBSE board, in an unprecedented first, reschedule three of his board examinations to help him avoid a clash between studies and competitive sports.
The prodigal son
Born on September 26, 2002 in Karnal, Haryana, Anish tried his hands on a few different sports during his childhood but shooting was his favourite sport. His father, an advocate in Karnal’s district court, supported him and borrowed a pistol for Anish to practice when he was only seven.
Apart from Anish and his sister, nobody else had an interest in shooting. However, pursuing his dream of becoming a professional shooter was not easy at all. He had to go to Delhi to practice regularly since there is no shooting range present in the state.
He began as a pentathlete where, as a 10-year-old, he competed in the Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championship. He even represented India at the 2013 Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championships. But soon after, he decided to focus more on what he was passionate about, shooting.
Turning heads at 14
It wasn’t until last year that the teenager made heads turn when he won the 25m standard pistol gold with a world record score of 579 at the ISSF Junior World Championships It was followed by silver in the 25m sport pistol at the same event and another silver at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in Brisbane.
The same year, he also outperformed 2012 Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar to win gold medals at the Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Championship and again at the 61st National Shooting Championship. Recently, he also won a gold medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup held in Sydney.
Biting the gold medal in the first attempt
Anish’s talent was too exceptional to be overlooked and he earned a deserving spot in the Indian shooting team that headed to this year’s Commonwealth Games (CWG) held at Gold Coast, Australia. But no one expected him to storm his way to the top of the podium at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
In a sensational CWG debut, Anish shot a Games record score of 30 to claim the top prize in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event. He entered the six-man final having topped the second stage of qualification with a total score of 580 that had 22 central bulls. In the qualifications, he scored 286 in stage one and 294 in stage two to finish top of the tally with a cumulative score of 580.
In the final, Anish started with two possible fives, racing to a three-point margin. However, he stumbled with a three and a one before scoring another five to lead his closest opponent Evglevski by four points. In the gold-medal round, with just a one-point margin, Anish held his nerves and displayed his skill with a maximum of an unbeatable 30 points. With a total of 28, 20-year-old Sergei Evglevski took silver and 28-year-old Sam Gowin bronze with a score of 17.
By winning the gold, Anish bettered team-mate Manu Bhaker, who had become the youngest Indian Commonwealth Games gold medallist earlier this week when she emerged champion in the 10m air rifle finals.
“When she won the gold, I thought I had a chance to beat her record become the youngest winner,” Anish says, teasingly. “This was the only chance because by 2022, I would be older and since shooting isn’t there at the CWG in 2022, I would probably have to wait till 2026.”
Anish’s gold was also India’s 16th of the kind at the Games in Gold Coast, surpassing their tally from Glasgow four years earlier. Individuals like him show the world that age is no boundary to succeed, for one is never too late to start and at the same time, never too early to begin.
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