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Sartaj Singh Tiwana: The shooter who pipped an Olympian at Khelo India University Games 2021

The 20-year-old Sartaj Singh Tiwana pipped Tokyo Olympian Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar in the 50m rifle 3 positions final to win the gold medal event at KIUG 2021.

Sartaj Singh Tiwana, on Friday, stunned the crowd at the SAI Shooting Range in Bengaluru when he defeated Olympian Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar in the final of the 50m rifle 3 positions event at the Khelo India University Games 2021, to claim the gold medal.

Having competed at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 last year, Aishwary, who is representing Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, was touted to be the favourite in the 50m rifle 3 positions event.

In the qualification round, Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar was the first one to complete his series, scoring a mammoth 588 out of 600 to finish in top position. Aishwary was also the highest scorer in the final eight, scoring 404.9, before the one-on-one shoot-off against Sartaj Singh Tiwana.

In the shoot-out, both Sartaj and Aishwary remained focused on their respective targets and battled in an intense clash, in which Sartaj, who was representing Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, picked up the victory.

“I am delighted with my win, but I don’t want to bear the tag that I defeated an Olympian, because tags are temporary,” said Sartaj, who hails from Patiala town of Punjab. “Shooting is a sport in which one day someone wins, and on the other day, the other person loses. It’s all about now or never. The balance keeps on shifting.

“Aishwary is a very good friend. We used to shoot together and we played our first international together. He is a great companion, and he has achieved great things in his career. There has always been a friendly rivalry between us and it was great fun to compete against him and pick up the win,” Sartaj added.

It was the second time Sartaj Singh Tiwana had defeated Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar in a Khelo India event. The two shooters had also competed in the final of the 50m rifle 3 positions event at the Khelo India Youth Games 2018 in Pune, in which Sartaj had won, as well.

“Sartaj is one of my best friends. He is a great shooter. In 2018 KIYG in Pune, he won the gold medal and I won the silver medal. History repeated yet again, today,” Aishwary said after claiming the silver medal at KIUG 2021.

“It feels great to see that the level of my beloved sport, shooting, is so high in this country that anyone can come ahead on any given day. KIUG is giving an opportunity to a lot of athletes to make a mark, and I am happy for Sartaj,” Aishwary added.

Humble beginnings

Sartaj Singh Tiwana, who hails from a family of farmers, was introduced to the world of shooting in school when he was in sixth class. “In my school, during a recreational activity, they took us to the shooting range. I was quite impressed with what I saw. So, I told my parents that I wish to pursue the sport. There was a range in our locality where I shot for the first time. Since then, I have been hooked on to my rifle,” he said.

Sartaj Singh Tiwana’s uncle is also an international powerlifter, having been an Asian champion in powerlifting. Hence, at his home, there has always been a sporting atmosphere because of which, despite the high cost of equipment and gear to pursue shooting, his parents completely backed him.

“Shooting is quite an expensive sport. Especially 50m rifle 3 positions, in which you require different equipment set-ups for different positions,” Sartaj pointed out. “My parents are the backbone of my career. They spent so much money, and yet fully supported me and never put pressure on me to get results, because of which I was able to do well.”

Winning the Gold medal at KIYG in 2018 in Pune also led to Sartaj earning a Khelo India scholarship and in 2020, he was selected under the TOPS Development Group Athletes and was provided ammunition and accommodation, besides other equipment and facilities.

“The support from Khelo India and TOPS schemes allowed me to just focus on my sport, without worrying about the expenses,” Sartaj said.

Now, Sartaj has his eyes set on the Paris 2024 Olympics as he looks forward to waving India’s flag on the biggest stage. “Every sportsperson has a single dream of waving India’s flag at the Olympics. So I will continue to chase the same dream and work hard towards it,” he signed off.

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