Anish Bhanwala: Shooting His Way to Glory at 15
Indian shooter Anish Bhanwala, aged 15, created history on Friday by becoming the country's youngest ever gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
Anish achieved the feat when he stormed his way to the gold medal with a Games record score in the men's 25m rapid fire pistol event at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
The youngest in the field, he showed nerves of steel and led the more experienced shooters through the event, and emerged a deserving champion.
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 the champion in the 10m air rifle finals.
The Emerging Player of The Year
The CWG gold however, is not the first time the teenager from Karnal, Haryana has made the country proud. At just 15, Anish already has won enough to put him in the big league, not that a CWG gold at just 15 doesn’t.
Earlier in March, Anish won a gold medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol shooting event at the ISSF Junior World Cup held in Sydney. He had recorded the highest qualification score with 585 points and concluded with 29 total hits.
In the same month, he came seventh in the ISSF World Cup held in Mexico’s Guadalajara.
Last year, 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 2017, followed by silver in the 25m sport pistol at the same event, helping India with two golds, two silver, one bronze and one world record at his first ever ISSF event. He also won silver at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in Brisbane.
The same year, he outperformed 2012 Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar to win gold at the Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Championship and again at the 61st National Shooting Championship.
After being selected for the Indian squad, he proved his mettle by winning an individual bronze in the 25m rapid fire pistol shooting event and a team gold in 25m Sports Pistol shooting at the 27th Meeting of Shooting Hope in Czech Republic.
Anish’s impressive run in the past couple of years made him win the 2018 Emerging Player of the Year at the third Mahindra Scorpio Times of India Sports Awards (TOISA).
No Sports Background
Having no background in sports, Anish initially dabbled with Pentathlon before picking shooting as the sport he would pursue further.
Anish’s family has supported him throughout. His father Jagpal Bhanwala, an advocate in Karnal even gave up his practice to move to Delhi in order to provide his kids better training facilities.
“Senior shooters saw them at the trials in Kerala in 2015 and were very impressed. They said Anish could do well in the future internationally because he has world-class technique. I enrolled them in shooting training and after that I am totally focused, 24-hours on the kids,” Jagpal told The Field in September last year.
Pursuit of passion and education
So talented is the shooter that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), in an unprecedented first, had agreed to reschedule three papers of his class X exams to help him avoid a clash between studies and competitive sports.
He has been granted special dates for Hindi, Social Science and Mathematics papers, after his father went knocking on the authorities’ doors to overcome his son’s crisis.
“Isn’t it unfortunate that children have to choose between studies and sports? We are grateful to the Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India, the national federation, CBSE and his school,” Jagpal had told PTI in March.