Monday, November 20, 2017

Aiming To Hit The Bull's Eye All The Time

Shooter Elizabeth Koshy, who has won gold medals at the World Police Games recently, talks about her dreams and hopes

Photos by Albin Mathew 

By Shevlin Sebastian

As Elizabeth Koshy prepared to lift the rifle at the start of the 50m event at the World Police Games in Los Angeles, in August, she was told of a rule change. “The organisers said that I had to remove the butt, which is the main support,” says Elizabeth. The Kerala lass was taken aback. Then the organisers explained their rationale: the Indian team consisted of professional award-winning shooters. But the competitors from other countries worked as policemen and did shooting as a pastime.

Elizabeth accepted the argument. “But I found it a bit difficult to adjust,” she says. Nevertheless, Elizabeth ended up winning the gold in the 50m rifle prone and three-position events.

On the day she returned, to her home at Kochi, there was a surprise visitor. It was Loknath Behra, the Thiruvananthapuram-based Director-General of the Kerala Police who came to offer congratulations. Soon, there was an avid discussion and it was decided that a state police team would be set up. “Six air rifles will be imported,” says Elizabeth. And because of her busy schedule, she will only be a part-time coach as well as a mentor.

So far, she's had a fairly successful career. Elizabeth is the first Malayali to win a shooting medal; this was achieved at the National Games at Thiruvananthapuram in 2015. Earlier, she had won a few junior titles and still holds the 50m prone junior national record. At the international level, Elizabeth has taken part in World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships, as well as the South Asian Federation Games, in which she has won two individual gold medals.

But it all began by accident. When she was twelve years old, her father took her to a pre-national event at the Muttom Rifle Club at Thodupuzha.

There was a 20-year-old lady who was shooting,” says Elizabeth. “I was immediately attracted by what she was doing.”

Seeing her interest, her father enrolled her at the club. It helped that Elizabeth's school, the Village International was nearby. Within a week, the coach Suresh told her parents, “I see some talent in her. She can do well.”

This turned out to be true. Within a year, Elizabeth qualified for the district, state and national championships.

One reason for her skill could be that shooting is in her genes. Her grandfather, Punnoose Abraham, who owned a large rubber estate, would go hunting regularly. She remembers seeing double-barrel guns and air rifles at his house.

Of course, the unique thing about shooting is that it is an individual sport. “It is always about you and your weapon,” says Elizabeth. “You rise and fall by yourself.”

She gives an example. Some time ago, she began to feel frustrated as she was missing the bull's eye regularly. She blamed the ammunition and the weapon. However, soon, Elizabeth noticed that there was a difference in her breathing pattern from shot to shot. “I also observed that there was a change in the way I held the rifle,” she says. “So I decided to concentrate on my body movements, and ensured that I had the same style for every shot that I took.”

As she goes about perfecting her technique, Elizabeth is also concentrating on qualifying for the Indian team, so that she can take part in the Commonwealth Games in April, 2018, at Queensland, Australia. There will be a trial in November, the nationals in December and two trials in January. Based on the aggregate result, the top two will be selected.

Women's shooting is very competitive,” says Elizabeth. “So, I am training very hard.”  

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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