After completing his degree in law, Abhishek Verma was all set to start practising as a lawyer. An engineering degree in computer science meant he was keen to specialise in cases related to cyber crime.But four years down the line, in a dramatic career turnaround, Abhishek Verma has moved away from courtrooms and computer laboratories to become one of India’s top pistol shooters.The 29-year-old won a bronze medal at the Asian Games last year in 10m air pistol and is gunning for a medal at the forthcoming World Cup to be staged in New Delhi later this week. Two top finishers in each of the individual rifle and pistol events will earn a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics.But Olympics was hardly on Abhishek’s mind when he went for his first formal training in shooting four years ago.“I was always interested in guns and fast cars. So I decided to try my hand in shooting. It was just a hobby. But it soon became an obsession. I was already 25 years old and I was not sure if I was good enough to become a top shooter.’Abhishek Verma, Indian ShooterShooting coach Omendra Singh who groomed Abhishek at the Eklavya Sports Shooting Academy in Gurugram gave him an ultimatum. “I gave him six months to make up his mind if he wanted to pursue the sport seriously,’’ recounts Omendra.An analytical mind, Abhishek’s engineering and law degrees helped as he made detailed notes of each shot he fired. “It is not easy to train a 25-year-old but these notes helped me to understand his strengths and weaknesses as a shooter. I soon realised he meant business,’’ adds Omendra.Abhishek started making dramatic progress.His pet event – the 10m air pistol event – boasts of a star-studded field with the likes of Jitu Rai, Om Prakash Mitharwal, former world number one Shahzar Rizvi and teenage prodigy Saurav Chaudhury battling for berths in the Indian team.“It was in December 2017 that I realised that I could become one of the top pistol shooters in the country when I finished 12th in the Nationals at Trivandrum and bagged a silver in the civilian section of the 10m air pistol event. The next year was a big year with the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. My scores in the initial selection trial was not good enough and I missed the cut for the Commonwealth Games but I soon regained my mojo and came into reckoning for a place in the national team for the Asian Games,” recalls Abhishek.It was in the fifth and the final selection trial where Abhishek created a sensation upstaging the likes of Jitu Rai and Rizvi to finish on top and book his ticket for the Asian Games. His rapid rise took everyone by surprise.“What worked to my advantage was that there was no burden of expectation. At the Asian Games, I was pitted against the likes of pistol legend Jin Jongoh – a four-time Olympic gold medallist but since it was my first major international tournament I did not take any pressure.’’Abhishek Verma, Indian ShooterAbhishek qualified for the final after finishing sixth in the qualification round. Lack of experience did not bog him down and he soon found himself in reckoning for a podium finish.Sixteen-year-old Saurav Chaudhury would hold on to his nerves to claim a gold pushing former world champion Tomyuki Matsuda to the second place while Abhishek bagged the bronze.To ensure that this performance was no flash in the pan, Abhishek also made it to the finals of the World Championship finishing eighth.Ahead of the World Cup in New Delhi, the Haryana-based marksman no longer enjoys the luxury of anonymity as the Asian Games medal has given him the confidence that he can compete against top international shooters. The pistol shooter admits that life was a lot easier without fame and that he has to work harder now. “Since my Asian games success, people expect me to win a medal every time I step into the shooting range. I now have to push myself harder,’’ says Abhishek.“Besides the technical aspects of the sport, I also have to ensure a rare talent like Abhishek is not distracted by his newfound fame or does not spend too much time on social media. Just like in military combat where the catch phrase is ek goli ek dushman, similarly in the sport of shooting, every shot fired from your weapon can make or break your performance. Therefore, you cannot afford to lose your focus even for a split second,’’ warns his coach Omendra.After winning medals in three consecutive Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Indian shooters drew a blank in the 2016 edition. But the emergence of the likes of Abhishek has raised hopes of a podium finish in Tokyo.Rules of 10m Air PistolThe 10m Air Pistol event consists of a qualifying stage and a final round where the shooters aim at the centre of a target in standing position. In the qualifying rounds, every shooter fires 60 shots within 1 hour 15 minutes.In the qualifying round, scores do not have decimal points and the maximum score per shot is 10 points. Therefore, the highest score in the qualifying rounds for 60 shots is 600.The top eight shooters from the qualifying rounds advance to the final. Qualifying scores are not carried to the final.In the final, scoring pattern is made more precise with addition of decimal points because of additional set of 10 rings within the circle. The maximum score for each shot is 10.9.The final starts with two series of five shots, each of them fired within 250 seconds.This is followed by 14 single shots fired within 50 seconds. After the 12th shot, the athlete with the lowest score is eliminated.Eliminations continue after every two shots till only two shooters remain in fray after 22 shots. The winner and the runners up are decided after the 24th shot.(The author is a television producer working with different sports networks in India and abroad. He has extensively covered previous editions of Asian Games and Commonwealth Games for both print and television.) We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.