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Sandeep Singh's Extraordinary Path: From Faridkot to Paris, via Siachen, to the Olympics

For most athletes, the Olympics is the pinnacle of their journey and the goal they are always working towards. Sandeep Singh, though, is not like most athletes. The Armyman has already served in Siachen, one of the toughest places on Earth to serve in, and had never even thought of going to the Olympics growing […]

Sandeep Singh's Extraordinary Path: From Faridkot to Paris, via Siachen, to the Olympics
Sandeep Singh's Extraordinary Path: From Faridkot to Paris, via Siachen, to the Olympics

For most athletes, the Olympics is the pinnacle of their journey and the goal they are always working towards. Sandeep Singh, though, is not like most athletes. The Armyman has already served in Siachen, one of the toughest places on Earth to serve in, and had never even thought of going to the Olympics growing up.

All he aspired to growing up was to serve in the Indian army. The ace shooter only started shooting less than a decade ago. While his journey to the Olympics might be rare in Indian sports, it has been full of adventure and self-discovery.
“In a secluded space like Siachen, you are often alone with your thoughts. When I was serving there, I had all kinds of thoughts and had the opportunity to process them and also rationalise my feelings. It gave me a lot of clarity and a new sense of purpose too,” Sandeep said.

When asked about the pressures of competing at the Olympics as well as taking part in a highly competitive sport like shooting, where India has very high quality and tough competition, Sandeep a Reliance Foundation scholarship programme athlete, says, “I have been in the Army for 10 years now. I have served in Siachen too. The pressures you face there can’t be compared to anything you experience on the range. My life experiences and the discipline of the Army have made me what I am, and those learnings have always shaped me well.”

The selection trials for the Indian shooting team for the Paris Olympics consisted of two legs and four stages, noted as some of the most competitive trials in recent memory. The field boasted numerous Asian and World-level medalists, according to a statement.
One particular event that witnessed intense competition was the prestigious men’s 10m air rifle event, the sole shooting discipline in which India has secured Olympic Gold. Sandeep, a member of the Army, showcased exceptional scoring throughout the first three trials, outperforming Olympic quota winner Arjun Babuta and former world champion Rudrankksh Patil to claim the top position in the five-man field.
Sandeep achieved remarkably high scores of 634.4, 632.6, and 631.6 in the qualification round of the initial three trials, virtually securing his leading position in the standings for the best of three selection trials.
“I had trained really hard in the lead up to the selection trials. My focus was only on following the same things that I was doing in training and carrying them forward at the selection trials. I had shot even higher scores in training, so I knew I was shooting well and confident of doing well,” Sandeep says about his preparation heading into the trials.
The top performers in each category at the trials are expected to represent India at the Paris Olympics. For Sandeep, who originates from a village in Punjab’s Faridkot district, the journey has been lengthy and filled with obstacles.
During his youth, Sandeep’s sole aspiration was to enlist in the Indian army. To achieve this goal, he dedicated himself to running, aiming to enhance his endurance and physical fitness. His proficiency in running eventually earned him a place in the Army.
It wasn’t until he joined the Army that Sandeep was introduced to rifles and shooting. While undergoing training, he displayed a natural talent for marksmanship, leading to his transfer to the Army Marksmanship Unit in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.
“There is a competition for new recruits in the army. I did well in the shooting event there. The feeling of holding a rifle and shooting well gave me a lot of joy, so I started focusing more on it and working harder,” Sandeep reminisces about his earliest days in the army.
Within three months of becoming a part of the army shooting program, Sandeep won his first medal in a competition. He then represented the army at the national level and a series of consistent results saw him named as a reserve for the Tokyo Olympics. Soon after though, he failed a dop test. Consequently, he had to join his unit to serve in the excruciating conditions of Siachen.
His commanding officer in Siachen saw his potential again and got him reinducted into the AMU. The Siachen experience gave Sandeep a newfound perspective and tranquillity that has served him well ever since.
Sandeep’s trial-topping efforts came as a surprise to many but at 28, he has experience of competing in various competitions and counts the pressure and discipline required to serve in the Army as traits that will serve him well at the Olympics.
“I first competed in a World Cup all the way back in 2019, so it’s not like I haven’t experienced international competition. The World Cups I competed in had all the top shooters. I have an Asian Championship silver too,” Sandeep says.
Sandeep, who is a Reliance Foundation scholarship program athlete, has also benefited from RF’s expertise in the areas of nutrition and psychology. “I am getting specialised attention in the areas of psychology, physiotherapy and nutrition. Reliance Foundation has been a big support for me. I now have a better understanding about diet and nutrition as well as the optimum water levels that should be in the body,” he says.

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2024 OlympicsSandeep SinghTDGThe Daily Guardian