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Mind on Tagore, Hand on Trigger – Dual Life of Golden Shooter Rhythm Sangwan

#RhythmSangwan, India's shooting star who qualified for 2024 Paris #Olympics, is a multitasking master. Here's how.

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On some days, Rhythm Sangwan is just a promising English honours student in Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College, who achieved 95% marks in her 12th standard examinations.

But on days like today (11 January), she is much more than just that. She is an ace shooter, one who won a gold medal at the Asian Games, and will now be seen competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics. By finishing third in women’s 25m pistol at the ongoing Asia Olympic Qualification Rifle/Pistol, Rhythm became the sixteenth shooter from India to qualify for sport's grandest spectacle.

At the tender age of 20, Rhythm Sangwan has mastered the art of multifaceted excellence.

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How a ‘Lazy’ Kid Picked up the Gun

The usual narrative around teen prodigies in athletics is how they indefatigably worked since childhood. How they indomitable they were in their vision and dedication.

But lo! Rhythm takes a detour – a conspicuous deviation. In a conversation with The Quint, she reveals she would have been a tennis player, not a shooter, had she not been a lazy kid.

My mother wanted me to pursue any sport. Not professionally, but just as a hobby. My interest was in lawn tennis, but it demanded enormous physical strength. Being a very lazy kid, I just was not made for it.
Rhythm Sangwan
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Rhythm’s first shooting experience was six years ago, when she visited the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range. A major – perhaps, solitary – reason why the 13-year-old was not frightened, but fascinated by the guns, was her father Narender Kumar, who is a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) with Haryana Police.

#RhythmSangwan, India's shooting star who qualified for 2024 Paris #Olympics, is a multitasking master. Here's how.
I had just casually visited the shooting range, but the sound of ammunition and guns got me so excited that I wanted to try it out. My father’s profession helped me in a way. I was not scared of the rifles and bullets because I had been seeing them since childhood.
Rhythm Sangwan
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Shifting Stance

For the first year or so, shooting drills were synonymous with fun for Rhythm. But with accolades being an inevitable by-product of practice, the stance soon changed.

I was only a kid when I started, so I did not care much about the results. I was just enjoying the sport, but as I kept on practising and playing, the results eventually got better. Then, my coach decided it was time to be more serious.
Rhythm Sangwan
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Between Books and Barrels

The medal haul, which commenced with the National Shooting Championship in 2017, has since seen additions aplenty. Amid all of this, Rhythm has chosen to not ‘shoot’ – excuse the pun – her academic aspirations away.

My parents have always said academics and sports should go hand-in-hand – one should not suffer for another. That is my aim. Of course, as my schedule keeps getting busier, I am getting less time to study, but I’m still managing.
Rhythm Sangwan
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#RhythmSangwan, India's shooting star who qualified for 2024 Paris #Olympics, is a multitasking master. Here's how.

In the same year she was preparing for her 12th standard examinations, Rhythm was simultaneously winning four medals at the ISSF World Cup and three at the ISSF World Shooting Championships.

‘Must have been hectic?’ we enquired.

It was very hectic, to be honest. I just had two days to prepare for my 12th standard examinations. My mother said ‘Beta, bas pass ho jana’ (Girl, just get passing marks). But I worked really hard and ended up getting 95% instead.
Rhythm Sangwan
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Age Is Just a Number

In only her first Asian Games appearance, expectations of returning with a medal were a tad far-fetched, as Rhythm reveals:

"I was not really focusing on the medal. Of course, I want to win every competition, that’s natural. But focusing too much on the results can take a toll on the game."

Ultimately, it did not take a toll on her game, as she – alongside Manu Bhaker and Esha Singh – won the gold medal in the women’s 25m team pistol event. Then only 19, she was among India’s younger medallists in Hangzhou.

Except that, she feels her age is all but an insignificant combination of two digits.

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Age is nothing but only a number. What matters is your mentality. Shooting is a mental sport, here it does not matter if you are 15 or 50. It makes me really happy that young shooters of my age are doing so well for India. We have many opportunities ahead of us, we can achieve great things at the big stages.
Rhythm Sangwan
#RhythmSangwan, India's shooting star who qualified for 2024 Paris #Olympics, is a multitasking master. Here's how.

Speaking about her Olympic aspirations, Rhythm said “Every athlete will tell you Olympics is the ultimate dream – I am not an exception, either. Winning an Olympic gold will be the greatest achievement of my career.”

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Helping her in her journey is PUMA, who have been associated with the shooter since before the Asian Games. Speaking on the collaboration, she adds:

Having a brand like PUMA supporting you at such a young age and giving you global recognition is a big deal. For youngsters, PUMA acts like a ladder to reach the goal, you just need to be passionate about what you do. They take care of all of my gear – footwear, workout wear and everything else is taking care of. Because of this, I have the luxury to think of nothing else but my game.
Rhythm Sangwan
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From Getting Inspired by Mary Kom To Inspiring Kids

Though it has only been a few years since she left her teenage years behind, Rhythm has emerged as an inspiration for the kids who have recently got their hands on the gun.

Shooting is growing rapidly in India. I am happy to see that so many young girls are now taking this sport. I hope that I and the other female shooters can inspire many more girls to get into the sport.
Rhythm Sangwan

But on being asked about her inspiration, Rhythm does not make a shooter, but a boxer. Another athlete who – like she is currently pursuing – mastered the art of multifaceted excellence.

Mary Kom is my inspiration. I have seen her multiple times off-the-ring, and she was wearing sarees on nearly all of those occasions. There, you get to see her graceful and elegant side. But in the ring, she has that hardness and grit that is needed to win one title after another. She is balancing her family and professional career with grace, and I find this is truly inspirational.
Rhythm Sangwan
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Pursuit of Humility

Winning an Olympic gold and emulating Mary Kom, however, are number two and three on her priority list.

What’s on number one? Humility.

#RhythmSangwan, India's shooting star who qualified for 2024 Paris #Olympics, is a multitasking master. Here's how.
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The most important goal is to remain grounded and humble. Success can come to any athlete, but people admire those who have humility. My parents and coaches are always advising me to have my feet on the ground, irrespective of whatever success I get.
Rhythm Sangwan

It is with this humility that the recently-turned 20-year-old is now approaching her life – doing the best impression of a dual life between Shakespeare and shooting, Blake and bullets, Marlowe and magazines, and, Tagore and trigger.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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