“At times, when I perform poorly, I feel there’s nothing left to live for. Then I motivate myself and train twice as hard”, a very humble and grounded Jitu Rai told ESPN once in an interview.
As a child, all he knew was forests and paddy fields. Even after joining the Indian Army, Jitu was never really interested in shooting. It was only because of his coach and seniors that he took it seriously. Once he started shooting, he himself did not realise when it became his life. Perhaps, that is how destiny works. You don’t even realise your calling and you already start treading on that path. Then one day you realize that this is all I really wanted!
Once he decided to give his all to shooting, Jitu didn’t let anything stop him. He worked hard to develop his technique and make all Indians proud. That is exactly what a dream does to you. It never lets you stop. It ignites a fire that only success can subdue.
Today, we glimpse into the life of this extraordinary shooter, Jitu Rai. Though his life has indeed been a roller coaster ride, his spirit has always been unwavering.
Date of Birth
26th August 1987
GR Garbaraj Rai
Highest: 1st (July 2014) in 10 m and 4th (July 2014) in 50 m, Current: 3rd (10 metre air pistol) and 4th (50 metre air pistol)
Born and brought up in a small village in the Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal, Jitu is the fourth among five siblings. Jitu spent his childhood in Nepal. Since his village was surrounded by a forest, there weren’t any sporting facilities. Jitu joined the Indian Army after losing his father in 2007. Coming from a middle-class family, loss of his father ignited a passion to do something and take responsibility and support his family.
He became a naturalized citizen of Indian and a part of the Army in 2007. From here on, his life took a completely different turn.
In October 2018, Jitu started another exciting phase of his life. He married kickboxer Sushmita Rai in a private ceremony in Sikkim. Sushmita has won medals at many prestigious international kickboxing tournaments. Some of them include a silver medal at the WAKO Asian Kickboxing Championship and a bronze medal at the World Martial Arts Masterships.
Jitu Rai – The Proud Army Man. Image Source: Twitter
Joining the Indian Army was the turning point of Jitu’s career. However, pursuing shooting was never a part of the plan. It was his army coach, GR Garbaraj Rai, who shaped his career as a shooter. The coach pushed Jitu to perform better once he picked up a pistol.
The first gun he ever used was a 9 mm pistol. It was in 2009, two years after he had joined the Army. Unfortunately, Jitu was not selected in the Marksmanship Unit of the Indian Army and sent back to the Lucknow unit. This incident completely changed Jitu’s life. Dejected, but not depressed, he decided to work hard. Day and night he practised shooting and finally won a free pistol quota for 10 m in 2014.
Dealing with pressure
“Yes, no doubt there’s pressure at times. But my preparation hasn’t suffered. Having played and won in a number of international tournaments it feels more like a habit. But I think I’m on the right path and my goal is to win a medal,” Jitu told ESPN.
Jitu has always taken pressure positively. This ability has helped him deliver at international tournaments.
A Promising start
Image Source: Twitter
Jitu’s hard work and dedication bore fruit as he made a stunning start to his shooting career. At the 2014 Asian Games, he won the gold in the 50m pistol event. The Incheon games victory catapulted his career and gave him the confidence to chase his newfound dream.
The very year, he won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games by scoring a stunning 194.1 points. The victory was all the more special as he scripted history during the qualifications with 562 points.
Winning the silver medal at the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, landed him a Rio Olympics spot. It was the first opportunity to book an Olympic berth and Jitu grabbed it with both hands.
2016 Rio Olympics and after…
Jitu was touted to come back with a medal at the Rio Olympics. He was in peak form and working hard.
“Jitu has the potential of winning a medal in Rio and if he has to peak at the Olympics, he cannot afford to be affected by poor results in the months leading up to it. It’s about peaking just at the right time. Pressure is always a given and that’s what athletes are trained to deal with. There’s no margin for error”, the celebrated pistol shooter Jaspal Rana had said in an interview to ESPN.
Jitu entered the finals of the 10 m air pistol event but failed to win a podium finish. As a result, a much-anticipated journey ended in a heartbreak.
The year 2018 started with a bang for Jitu. At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, he won the gold medal in the men’s 10 m air pistol event. However, he couldn’t qualify for the Asian Games.
Commonwealth Glory. Image Source: HT
The Road Ahead
Missing out on the Asian Games qualifications was a big blow for Jitu. Unfortunately, he was also recently dropped out of the government’s TOP (Target Olympic Podium) Scheme. Though disappointed, Jitu is undeterred. He is positive about a comeback and working hard.
“I will now focus on my training and my target is to earn a berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Union government’s TOP Scheme certainly gives financial impetus to an athlete which in turn helps in improving the scores as the equipment and ammunition are expensive. The Indian army has been backing me since my initial years, which is why I have been able to achieve so much,” Jitu told ANI in a telephonic interview.
- Jitu’s favourite actor is Aamir Khan.
- Before joining the Indian Army, he was farming in his native village.
- Jitu’s father was an Army man himself.
- After his shooting glory, he was promoted as Sepoy in the Indian Army. Currently, he is serving as a Naib-Subedar in 11 Gorkha Rifles. Jitu has always credited the Indian Army for his success.
- He prefers the pistol to rifle shooting as rifles are heavier and involve elaborate kits.
The journey has been filled with several extreme ups and downs for Jitu. From being rejected by the Army to bouncing back, breaking Olympics qualification records to ending up last, and CWG gold in 2018 to disqualification at the Asian Games 2018. Perhaps, this is exactly why we know that Jitu still has a lot of potential. Everything life tried to pull him down, he has bounced back.
Keeping a positive spirit and not letting your determination waver in adversity is easier said than done. However, Jitu is no ordinary mortal. He is giving is all to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. We can’t wait to see him add the much coveted Olympic medal to his tally and fulfil a life-long dream.
- Arjuna Award, 2015
- Khel Ratna, 2016
|2014||Glasgow, Scotland||50 m pilots||Gold|
|2018||Gold Coast, Australia||10 m pistol||Gold|
|2014||Incheon, South Korea||50 m pistol||Gold|
|2014||Incheon, South Korea||10 m team air pistol||Bronze|
|2014||Munich, Germany||10 m air pistol||Silver|
|2014||Maribor, Slovenia||10 m air pistol||Gold|
|2014||Maribor, Slovenia||50 m pistol||Silver|
|2015||Changwon, South Korea||10 m air pistol||Bronze|
|2016||Baku, Azerbaijan||10 m air pistol||Silver|
|2017||New Delhi, India||10 m mixed air pistol||Gold|
|2018||Guadalajara, Mexico||10 m air pistol||Bronze|
|2017||Brisbane, Australia||10 m air pistol||Bronze|
|2017||Brisbane, Australia||50 m pistol||Bronze|
|2014||Granada, Spain||50 m pistol||Silver|
At the Commonwealth Games 2018, @JituRai once again demonstrated his prowess in shooting and made a mark. Congratulations to him for bagging the Gold in Men's 10m Air Pistol event. pic.twitter.com/Wa20xIQ7hU
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 30, 2018
Indian shooting ace Subedar Jitu Rai of 5/11 Gorkha Rifles claimed the Gold Medal in men's 10m air pistol event at the Commonwealth Games 2018, Gold Coast by creating a new Games Record. #IndianArmy pic.twitter.com/Zaw0VWOtyU
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) April 9, 2018