CHENNAI: Sandhya Winfred was 11 when she first tried her hands at air rifle shooting and there has been no looking back since. Thanks to her mother, Mahalakshmi, a former shooter herself, who decided to take up the sport after marriage, the 21-year-old ace-shooter, who represents the Indian senior team recently received the ‘Inspire and conquer Brew women awards 2017’ alongside Aishwarya Dhanush and Ritika Singh.
“I started shooting very early and back then it was just a hobby. My mother picked it up from where she left after marriage and that’s when I picked it up too. We used to go to the club on weekends and luckily for me, three months after I started training, I was part of a state meet where I won the silver in the sub-junior category!” narrates Sandhya.
By 14, Sandhya was already on her way to the Nationals and when she turned 17, she became a part of the Indian junior team.
Representing the country between 2013 and 2015, she was ranked number one in 2015 but, “It was a hard year,” says the young shooter. “It was always my dream to wear the Indian jersey and shoot for the country in the Olympics. I had that opportunity…but, 2015 was a disaster in all aspects of my life. I had a family tragedy, had technical issues with my gun and then there was the floods in December. I couldn’t perform well in the Nationals, which was the deciding factor that would have taken me to the Olympic trials. In the beginning of 2015, I was in the top 9 and by the end, I was nowhere in the listing. I had lost hope and even decided to quit shooting!” she recalls.
With the support and encouragement from her mother and her sponsors Go sport foundation, Sandhya says she bounced back. “It was tough to crawl back. But, I worked hard and right now I am in the right track,” she says enthusiastically. Completing a decade in the sport she has won an impressive 19 gold medals, 24 silver medals, and 24 bronze medals at National and State levels.
“I should give credit to my mother who was my first trainer. And till today, she understands what I go through when I shoot…when I see many parents not understanding the psychology of their children who are doing sports, I feel I am extremely blessed and grateful to have her,” she says and reveals that she is possessive about her two guns.
“My trainer always asks me to talk to the weapon I use…but I don’t do that though (quips). But I am possessive about it. Since I am a leftie, I can’t use the normal ones. So, I take extra care of my weapons,” she shares.
So, what’s her long term goal? The 2020 Olympics off course! I have just four years for that. With competition increasing by the day, one needs to train hard. But, it’s a positive change that there are takers for the sport,” she says.