On ISSF World Cup duty at Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range here, Loveleen shimmers in her green jury jacket in the 25m arena. She is visibly mindful of not committing any mistake. But every now and then, she would look sideways over her shoulders, to glance at the Indian athletes practising.
At the 2019 Nationals, she was part of the top-eight final in the women’s 25m event, which included Manu and Rahi Sarnobat. Both are part of the Indian team competing at the ongoing World Cup, and Loveleen will officiate over them both.
“Obviously it [becoming an official] wasn’t part of my plan; but honestly, if you ask me, if it comes down to choosing between life as a shooter, coach or official, I will still say I just want to be a shooter,” says the 27-year-old Delhi girl, who has represented India as well.
In 2010, Loveleen won the individual as well as team gold medal in women’s 10m air pistol at the South Asian Games in Dhaka. The same year, she participated in the World Championships in Munich.
It all started for Loveleen at the ‘Thal Sena’ camp during her NCC (National Cadet Corps) days at school. She used to compete in the 0.22 rifle, but despite a good show, she wasn’t selected in one of the competitions. That incident fueled the fire in Loveleen.
“Her grouping was good, but she wasn’t selected,” says Loveleen’s father, Ishvinder Singh, who gave up his job as a fingerprint expert for the National Crime Records Bureau once he saw a shooter in Loveleen.
Singh started his own business so that he can take time out at will to build Loveleen’s shooting career.
“After being overlooked for selection in the NCC camp, she got determined. She said, ‘Papa, now I want to do something in shooting and want to prove everyone that I can do it’,” her father shares.
Loveleen admits that the major push she received in her career came from her father, who would sit at the back of the range for hours watching her train. He would note down every minute detail and later share the inputs with his daughter.
“I haven’t seen any parent do that,” Loveleen, who has completed an ISSF coaching course as well, says. “Everything I have done and achieved as a shooter, I owe it to my father. Papa sacrificed a lot, his career, family time, because I became his priority.”
“Every parent has to do it,” says Singh. “If the child has potential, then every parent would sacrifice. I don’t think I have done anything extraordinary.”
FROM A SHOOTER TO COACH, AND NOW JURY MEMBER
There was a point in time in Loveleen’s life when she was at a crossroads in her career. Admittedly not exceptional in academics, she wasn’t able to take a decision about her future though at one time she wanted to join the Indian Army.
“In 2019, I did all my courses. An ISSF-certified coaching course, the judges and jury course and the Electronic Scoring Target (EST) course,” says Loveleen.
“After you have done your judges and jury course, the EST course becomes mandatory if you want to officiate on the international stage. I have done a few coaching workshops as well with the NRAI [National Rifle Association of India].”
But she didn’t make a move from a shooter to an official. In between, while she was still an active athlete, Loveleen started her own academy, Guns of Nation, in Delhi. She still coaches there.
“It was at a very small scale, more of an experiment, like dekhte hain kaisa chalta hai [let’s see how it goes]. But I was unsure if I should commit myself to coaching and officiating. That’s when I decided that because I am thinking so seriously about it, let me give it a proper shot,” Loveleen narrates.
Then, she started enjoying life as a mentor.
“To be honest, I started enjoying being a coach, as much as I loved being a shooter. I never realise spending 12-13 hours at the range, without even sitting at times. That’s when I realised I am passionate about coaching.”
Loveleen’s debut as a jury member on the international stage had the backing of the NRAI. The news that she would officiate as an official at the Delhi World Cup was broken to her last year itself, before the 2020 edition was cancelled.
Loveleen especially thanks NRAI secretary Rajiv Bhatia and joint secretary general Pawan Singh.
“I would say Rajiv Bhatia sir and Pawan Singh sir came in as a guide for me in my life,” says Loveleen. “They were the ones who really helped me in taking this decision. They were the ones who told me ‘okay, this is the time. You have got this huge opportunity in front of you’.
“I was told last year itself that I will be one of the officials. At that time, I was just an apprentice. I became a full-fledged official somewhere in 2020, when I completed the required number of tournaments as an apprentice.”
FIRST DAY AS JURY
As Loveleen looks at the shooters going through their training routine, it can be easily gauged that she is itching to be at the firing point.
And since she had competed at the national level as recently as 2019, a valid question is ‘do you see yourself returning as a shooter again some day?’
“To be very honest, it’s a very valid question. On the first day of this World Cup, as an official, I thought ‘What am I doing? I should be at the lane, firing.’ But then I told myself that I have taken a decision, I will stick to it, whatever happens. I won’t look back or think like I made a mistake,” says Loveleen.
RETURN AS A SHOOTER NOT RULED OUT
Will we see Loveleen at the next Nationals, which happen to be as soon as April this year?
“Not as a shooter. At the coming Nationals, I will be there as a range officer. But surely return to shoot in the subsequent championships,” says Loveleen.
“I have got a lot of time. I can still participate at the domestic level. Whenever I feel I have a hold as a shooter, I can always get back to being an athlete,” says Loveleen, who got married to a US-based singer-musician last year.
“As much support I have received from my father, the similar I have got from my husband. He is the one who pushes me to continue, follow my passion. He is passionate about music, so he knows what being really crazy about your passion means.”
From the first to the 15th minute of this conversation, which was her first ever with the media, the growing confidence in Loveleen’s voice was testament to the fact that she has successfully managed to develop her multi-faceted personality.
“Definitely, in the same field [five years from now]; there is no doubt about it. I have a long way to go, and lots to learn.”