Our country has produced diamonds in various walks of life that lit up the entire world. Be it art, literature, economy, medicine, science or sports, Indians will always find room at the top. Here is one such diamond who not only set world records, but also is the face of Indian shooting. Anjali Vedpathak-Bhagwat has inspired many to take up shooting as a professional game. To encourage it further, she has also started her own academy in Pune and works on polishing the raw diamonds.
Anjali Bhagwat has been one of the famed names across the globe in shooting. Not only has she won an array of awards, but also has turned into a coach for better development of the sport. She is a proud teacher! “One of my students is competing at Deaf Olympics while another is participating in Junior Asian Games,” she beams. Thanks to the better facilities for the sport, Anjali shifted her base from Mumbai to Pune and has been coaching her students there. She has her own setup where she also practices regularly.
Thinking about the commencement of her journey, Anjali is happy that neither her parents forced her to follow the conventional way of career nor her in-laws objected her choice of career. It was never a conscious decision. I started shooting as a game initially, when in school. It soon grew in passion. “Frankly, I didn’t even realise when it became my career. Thankfully, my parents have always been supportive and encouraged us to be something different,” Anjali remembers. Though her parents were open to this idea of shooting, however there was still a lot of ambiguity about the game. So, Anjali took her parents with her to her practice sessions where they got first hand idea about it. It was only after they ensured safety, they weren’t hesitant about it.
Though she had support from her family, it doesn’t mean that it was a cake walk for her. When she started her career, the association was just coming into being and there was a lot of chaos and confusion. Do you know Anjali got her first personal kit eight years after she started playing? “We never had state-of-the-art equipment when I started playing 29 years ago. I won all the gold medals at a tournament where Mrs Abhyankar was the chief guest. Considering my talent, she sponsored my rifle. In the same tournament, veteran actor Nana Patekar (who is also passionate about shooting and practiced with her) sponsored my first kit,” Anjali recalls.
She has been the face of Indian shooters for quite some time and has numerous gold medals to her credit. 13 to be precise! Ask her which one remains special to her and she is quick to respond, “I guess winning Champions trophy would always be special. The best men and women in the world compete in this and winning a gold definitely meant a lot to me. However, more than the medal, it is the joy that thrills me more. I always found the tricolour held high, our national anthem playing and all those people in the stadium, giving me a standing ovation more important.”
This is probably the reason why the other countries are looking at India as a threat when it comes to this sport. Today, not only are we number one in the world, but also are taken seriously by competitors like China, the USA, Germany, etc.
Despite all the success, Anjali has her feet on the ground. She owes her success to her families, her psychological coach, Late Bhishmaraj Bam and to her coaches as well. “Sanjay sir was my first coach and he taught me a great deal. I took me early lessons from him. Bam sir was always there to boost our morale and to see to it that we have perfect attitude and correct point of view. I don’t know what I would have done without all these people,” she says.
Anjali feels that the Indian sports scenario needs to change for good. Though she agrees that it has changed a fair deal in the few years, especially after India hosted the Commonwealth Games, there is still room for improvement. “We do not have the concept of sports universities. In many countries, they have sports universities where an athlete can enrol and graduate with sports. He is trained for global events there and is prepared to take on the world. In India, we lack such facilities,” Anjali shares. Given a chance, she would like to bring in better policies, better awareness and better facilities for sports to ensure more participation. “Countries like China train 10000 athletes and they get 10 golds in Olympics. If we expect to excel, we have to produce huge number of athletes too,” she opines.
Anjali bid for India to host Commonwealth Games. She felt that Indians, especially the youth and the children should watch the game of champions and world class players. She sensed that it would help them get motivated to opt for sports of their choice and even pursue it as their career. “When I saw Carl Lewis on television, I was so fascinated by his performance. That motivated me to take up shooting. I wanted the youth in India to feel the same thing. So I bid for India to host Commonwealth Games,” shares Anjali.
Anjali has been one of the first sportspeople to walk on the ramp. She sizzled the ramp for the ace designer Vikram Phadnisalong with other stalwarts like Katrina Kaif. Anjali admits that due to her profession, she cannot wear beautiful sarees and dresses every day. “Every day, I don a tee and trouser and I’m good to go! Walking on a ramp was like an outing for me as I got to model with a talented designer in his gorgeous outfits. I enjoyed doing it,” confesses Anjali.
Anjali has admitted to be a foodie and loves to binge on fish. Luckily, it aids her diet so she doesn’t have to balance between diet and taste.