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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Tilottama Sen: the 14-YO Shooting Champ who inspires youth to face challenges

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Tilottama began shooting as a pastime during the COVID-19 shutdown two years ago and has since turned it into a passion.

Tilottama began shooting when she was eleven years old, during the lockdown. Sujit, her father, thought this was the best approach to get her to stop “spending time” playing mobile games (and watching cartoons). So why are you shooting? Sujit had gone to college in Nagaland and had always been attracted by the state’s gun culture.

She’d only ever picked up a rifle once before, during a family function hosted by her father’s firm that included a balloon-popping competition. So, of course, she won. Yet that was all in good fun; this would quickly become anything but.

That truly hit her when she won a match between two Bengaluru clubs. Sujit decided to go all in at this time. He used his provident fund and retirement resources to invest in Tilottama’s equipment as a TechMahindra employee.

He bought her a gun (Rs. 2.65 lakhs), a new gear (including shoes and gloves), and new pellets. Her score increased every time a new jigsaw piece was added. Training time has been raised to six hours every day (eight if you include travelling). She quickly found herself knocking on some major doors.

Then came 2022 and the nationals, selection trials 1 and 2, and selection to the senior Indian squad. And a silver medal at the National Games.

As amazing as her climb has been, she has not been without challenges. She finished 63rd in her first nationals (2021), the journey and unfamiliarity of it all troubling her. She finished 43rd in her first international competition, a Junior World Cup, due to an equipment malfunction: a leak in the cylinder. She learned a lesson each time and kept going.

The majority of her brief career has been founded on her capacity to study on her own.

The Reliance Foundation arrived in the midst of this wonderful trip. For the time being, this has reduced the strain on the Sen Family’s resources. They say a new secondary rifle is on its way, funded by them [Tilottama claims she was the only senior team member in Cairo without a replacement gun]. They have also assisted her in other ways, such as enhancing her breathing style.

It’s the little things that count, and that’s where the Foundation’s specialists, as well as the psychiatrists and seasoned coaches at the national camp, come in. Food and exercise are now followed as directed by the national team, as is the training schedule.

Thus, for the time being, it’s a month of’rest’ until the big contests begin: the Bhopal World Cup, the World Championships in Baku (where Olympic quota spots are available), and then the Asian Games in September.

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