New Delhi: Eyeing an Olympic quota place this year, ace Indian shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu says the gold medal at the recent ISSF World Cup is a proof that his preparation is headed in the right direction in a crucial season which also features the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Manavjit produced some excellent shooting to clinch the men’s trap gold medal ahead of a two-time Olympic champion and another equally proven marksman Michael Diamond at the ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Tucson, USA.

“This win confirms that my training is going on well, my technique and equipment are in the right position. Therefore, I need to continue on this path with increased effort and dedication,” Manavjit told PTI in an interview.

The 37-year-old Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee has made a few changes to his game. Manavjit said the World Cup medal acted as “validation” of his efforts in an “important” year.

“The victory in Tucson was an extremely important event for me personally as it’s a validation of the changes in equipment and technique that I have done in the last 14 months. Such validation is crucial in an important year.

Last year was full of near misses and good scores, but I needed the confirmation through a win. For me this is an extremely important year, and I am looking forward to it,” the former world number 1 said.

It was some achievement by the ace shooter as he was up against Australia’s Michael Diamond, who had won the top prize in the 1996 Atlanta and Sydney Olympics in 2000, besides winning five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. The bronze went to Russia’s Alexey Alipov, who won the yellow metal at the 2004 Games in Busan.

“Competing head to head with two Olympic champions on a single day and getting the better of both was indeed special.

However, I feel that in shooting one simply tries to shoot their own target and then the score speaks for itself.”

“Psychologically, it can be intimidating shooting against legends, but I did not let that trouble me,” Manavjit said.

If the strong field was not enough, the heat and wind only made the conditions at Tucson more challenging.

“Conditions were very challenging. The heat and the high UV Index, the ranges had no covering so we were shooting directly under the sun. Additionally it was very windy. Indeed a difficult environment, but it was the same for all.”

The time ahead is going to be busy for Manavjit, with the shooter currently training in Italy.

“The training schedule is extremely hectic, with training in Italy as well as competing at the other two World Cups before the CWG, World Championships, Asian Games and the World Cup Final begin. So, it is a very intense calendar but I am looking forward to it.”

Talking about the day he bagged his latest top prize, he said, “It’s just that everything clicked and fell in place. However, for the last two years I have been shooting very high scores. This underscores that good scores and training eventually lead to win.”

Manavjit said he was a bit unwell flying into Tucson but was fit during the competition.

Asked about the inaugural Indian Shotgun Open, which is the brainchild of Manvjit and Ronjan Sodhi, he said, “The Indian Shotgun Open was a concept very dear to Ronjan and me, as it seeks to give a winning opportunity to the young shooters of India. I am very happy with the results and the huge response the competition received.”

The Indian sharpshooter had last won at the World Cup stage four years ago.

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