Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 11
When the plans to hire a chartered flight to transport India’s full rifle and pistol team to Croatia was being finalised, there was one man in the team who was still wondering what would happen to his training plans.
Skeet shooter Mairaj Ahmad Khan had sent at least three proposals to Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) officials to train in Italy with his coach Ennio Falco. The proposals were rejected as Italy was under a complete lockdown then. While he was waiting to take the first available flight to Italy — he had all but decided to buy tickets on his own — tragedy struck the Khan household. Mairaj’s father Ilyas Ahmad Khan passed away in April.
“I am a firm believer that it was Allah Tallah’s will. God forbid if I were out of the country, who would have helped my mother during this loss? At least I was with him in his final journey,” Mairaj said.
“It was a tough time for our family. Sometimes I feel he is still in Khurja (his hometown). However, like I said, being the eldest son, I was there for his last rites. His is an irreplaceable loss,” he added.
After this, Mairaj had a scare and had to quarantine himself after coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient. “It was not bad. I got time to stay indoors and rest a bit as I had shot a lot,” the 45-year-old said.
“I had shot two back-to-back World Cups (in Cairo and New Delhi), not to mention hundreds of hours in training. So this time in quarantine was a blessing in disguise as it gave me time to rest,” added Mairaj will be the oldest shooter in India’s team at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mairaj will soon join his skeet teammate Angad Vir Singh Bajwa in Italy. The TOPS has cleared his training stint and has also sanctioned travel of his personal trainer Jitender Arya. The two are set to take a flight for Italy on Saturday morning.
“They have sanctioned the stint till June 28. But I can extend it further and may head to Tokyo from Italy itself,” the 2016 Olympian said of his training plan.
“If the stay does not get extended then I will return and train here for 10-12 days and then leave for Tokyo,” he added.
Making his training base in Capua at Falco’s range, Mairaj will be taking part in a couple of competitions, including the Fitav GP and the Beretta Gold Cup. He has an option to take part in the Croatia World Cup as well.
“We will decide on participation in the Croatia World Cup a little later. My coach (Falco) is not keen for me to participate as he reckons that top skeet shooters will not come for that competition. We will decide on it later. We have enough time,” he said.