Sift Kaur Samra barely has time to reflect on a gruelling season but she is not complaining. Because the past 12 months have been nothing short of spectacular establishing her as India’s best rifle three positions shooter. It has come on the back of an Asian Games gold with a world record score, a Paris Olympics quota place and the small business of defending her national title at home earlier this week.
An even bigger challenge awaits her next season. The first test will be to hold on to her Olympic quota place by winning the selection trials at home in May, and then prepare to face the pressure of the biggest of all events – the Olympics in Paris.
“I have to prepare well and continue doing what I have done this year. I want to be in top form in the trials. Whether it is an international competition or domestic trials, I go with the mindset of taking each match with the same seriousness and putting in the hard yards,” said the 22-year-old.
“I would be competing in a few international events and want to keep the winning momentum going. It is good to be in the habit of winning medals at international events. Yes, there will always be pressure in big matches and you need to know how to handle it.”
At the Asian Games, Sift overcame early jitters with fearless shooting, beating world champion Qiongyue Zhang of China by a long margin. She had taken the lead after kneeling and prone positions and raced ahead of the field in the elimination round (standing). When she stopped it was on a score of 469.6, a world record.
“The qualification round was good and I finished on top. Before the final we came to know that we have won the team silver. I enjoyed the moment. I could feel the pressure when the final started. We were yet to win an individual gold in shooting. It was all coming in team events.
“After the first five shots I could see that the scores were nothing extraordinary and I was doing well. I told myself I can handle it, I can perform well here. Then, my focus was on getting my technique right,” said Sift.
The best part for her was to beat world champion Zhang who finished second on 462.3 points. Sift had a similar thrill in August when she and Ashi Chouksey finished with gold and silver at the World University Games in Chengdu, China, beating the Chinese shooters in their own backyard.
“When I joined the national camp all the talk I had heard of was beating Chinese shooters. They came to India for the World Cup and went back with gold medals (Zhang won in Bhopal) so I wanted to go there in China and win gold. The World University Games prepared me for the Asian Games and I was thrilled to beat the Chinese shooters at their home twice.”
She has risen to the top fast after breaking into the junior India team in 2021. Last year, she won gold in the Junior World Cup in Suhl along with a clutch of team medals. At home, she won her maiden national title along with the National Games title proving her talent in the highly competitive domestic scene.
She started this season by winning bronze at Bhopal World Cup before bagging the Paris Olympics quota for India.
Tokyo Olympian Anjum Moudgil has long been the country’s best in the event. Sift has got the better of her in domestic events. At the national championships this week, Sift beat Moudgil to win the gold.
“I love when they call me the golden girl. It has been a remarkable year. Though there will be no break (as) we will have to appear in trials this month, I don’t mind it. I have worked very hard to come so far and I want to keep enjoying this moment,” said Sift.