Well before Gagan Narang won his Olympic bronze, two Hyderabadi lads have been quietly participating and winning medals in shooting events across India and the world. Minal Khona meets Asher Noria and Kynan Chenai to find out what is it about shotguns and the sport of shooting that these guys love so much.
Kynan Chenai and Asher Noria, Hyderabadi boys and shooting aces are very passionate about their sport. Kynan, who is 21, the more outgoing of the two, recalls how he was shooting from the age of 10. “I would watch my dad Darius shoot as a kid. Since I was chubby, I could hold the gun and take the recoil that happens on shooting. So I learnt how to shoot from him and by the time I was 11 or 12, I was participating in junior level competitions.”
Luckily for Kynan and Asher, the shooting range was built at the Hyderabad University campus in the year 2000 for the Afro-Asian Games. Asher, all of 19, shy and on the quiet side, too learnt the sport watching his dad Gusti shoot.
Kynan reveals, “Asher and I go to the range and shoot for hours on end. We spend at least four to five hours there. After which, we head straight to the gym for two hours.”
The sport of shooting is an interesting and complicated one. Trapshooting is one of the three major disciplines of competitive clay shooting (shotgun shooting at clay targets). Kynan shoots single trap while Asher shoots double trap. In the single trap style of shooting, there are 15 machines in total — 5 shooting stands and each stand with 3 machines set at a pre-set angle . All these machines send out 25 targets in each round — 10 from the left, 10 from the right and 5 straight. The targets move at a speed of 100 kmph, which means the shooter has 0.6 seconds to react to a target. The target travels a total of 75 metres and the average shooting distance ranges from 25 yards to 35 yards. After this distance, the target is out of range and the shooter needs a lot of luck to hit it.
In the double trap category, there are 5 shooting stands, 3 machines and two targets come out in a steady progression. Each round has 50 targets and the speed is 80 kmph. The shooter has to shoot two targets at a time. Each match consists of three rounds with three different tables i.e. differently set angles of 50 targets each, totalling to 150 targets.
The guns are expensive and Beretta, one of the leading gun companies in the world, manufacture the kind of shotguns Kynan and Asher use. In fact, Asher’s gun has been sponsored by Beretta as he has a contract with them. The sport is expensive. Kynan shares the approximate costs involved in the sport. “The Rifle Association of Andhra Pradesh (www.raap.co.in) promotes shooting in a big way. Anyone interested can join, go to the range and start shooting with borrowed guns for a total of Rs 10,000 to begin with. Shotguns cost about Rs 2 lakh and the shells cost Rs 10-Rs12 each. In India, I guess these are approximate costs, different countries in the world have different costs.”
But for those with an interest, this sport is the most thrilling of all. Asher says, “There are certain practices that one must keep in mind while shooting. The first is to stay focussed and to concentrate. Think of nothing and only do what you are trained to do. Over the years, I have learnt to slow down my heart rate, control my breathing and prepare in my mind before an event. Having said that, when you lose by a whisker, it is heart-breaking. But then, the trick is to not let that hold you back. You just have to move on and shoot the next target.”
Unlike other sports, where a high degree of aggression and competitiveness underlines one’s performance, it is not the case with shooting. But for Kynan and Asher, the aggression “comes out in the gym. If you get angry or frustrated, you are likely to miss a target again. Sure, one gets upset, but you have to move on,” says Asher. Kynan however, admits to getting upset and emotional. He reveals, “At 15, I would say I was mentally immature. I would show a lot of emotion if I missed a target and get upset. But my dad constantly tells me to stay calm and not get upset. I am getting better at controlling my emotions now.”
Preparations at the physical level include not working out too much. “The approach to fitness is different for this sport. We can’t do extra weights because we can’t afford to pull a muscle in our arms. Diets too change and on most days, it is salads, healthy food and protein. But during competitions, the diet changes to a high carb one, as carbs give you mental stability plus energy. Low carb diets make brain activity unstable,” says Asher.
Theirs is a somewhat unusual relationship. Kynan and Asher — born to different parents, they are brothers — step-brothers technically — with Kynan’s mother Dinaz, now married to Gusti Noria — Asher’s dad. But, the parallels that exist have created a bond between them. Both Parsis, with dads who excelled at shooting on the national level and based in Hyderabad.
Having won several junior and senior national championships, [see box], Kynan and Asher who were in the city on holiday briefly, are studying overseas. Kynan is studying business management and sports science at Brunell University in London. Asher is studying industrial engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, U.S. While they were here however, they were at the range frequently, shooting. “We can talk for hours about the sport,” Kynan says.
At their age, girls would be a big part of their life and given the glamour of what they do, are there plenty who want to hang out with them because of it? Incredibly, both the boys spend most of their day practicing and exercising. “We do socialise but whether it is girls or guys, there is no glamour in what we do unless we win. Very few people are genuinely interested in what we do. Most nights, we are asleep by 9 as we get so tired. We go out maybe twice a week when we are here. As sportsmen, we are a little conservative with our time. There is only that much time you have and you would rather spend it with people you really want to be with,” says Kynan.
And who would these people be? In Asher’s case, it is his mentor Ronjan Sodhi, the champion double trap shooter. “He has helped me a lot and guides me with my technique,” says Asher. “It is an individual sport, so a vital aspect that is missing is to go out and talk about the game as a team, after an event,” he adds.
Kynan, on the other hand, spends time with Mansher Singh and Manavjit Singh Sandhu — champion shooters in their own right. “I can spend the entire day talking to Mansher about the sport.” Both the boys admit that they find the prospect of talking to their peers and seniors more fun than just shooting the breeze with social acquaintainces.
Reading about other legendary sportspersons is also inspiring. Asher adds, “I read Rafael Nadal’s autobiography to learn about his psychological approach to his game.
I try to mimic that and I find it works.”
Yet, both have their lucky charms which they have on before every competition. Asher has a band he considers lucky that he wears while Kynan has a necklace with a
leopard’s claw that is his talisman
for positive energy.
While shooting dominates their sporting lives, Kynan boxes and plays hockey for his University team back in London. Asher plays soccer for his university in the US, though he had a soccer injury when he participated in the junior World Cup in Munich, Germany, where he won the gold. Ironically, he has never won the gold at the national level here in India. It was their parents’ decision that they pursue education over sport. “But that doesn’t mean we have given it up,” says Kynan. “We are still shooting and we will be participating in the championships that will be held this December.”
Asher reveals that he would “like to be in the Olympics some day. I want to get there and perform for India on the world stage. It is hard work but I am willing to put in the effort so I can make it to the Games in 2016.” Kynan too has similar goals and says, “A high point has been the national championships in Jaipur where my dad won the seniors title and I won the juniors title. But, yeah, nothing would beat the feeling of participating and winning in the Olympic games.”
Well, the Games are four years away — enough time for Kynan and Asher to finish their studies and practice to qualify and make it to the team going to the Olympics.
Gold Medal at the National Junior Trap Shooting 50th National Shotgun Championships 2007, Delhi.
Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008, Pune.
Gold Medal at the 51st National Shotgun Championships 2008, Jaipur.
Silver Medal at the Asian clay Championships 2008, Jaipur.
Silver medal at the Asian Shooting Championship Doha, Qatar 2011.
Gold medal at the Bangkok Open Championships 2010
Gold medal at the Open Championship, Kazakhstan 2010.
Gold Medal at the Champion of Champions competition, Porpetto, Italy, 2011.
Bronze Medal at the ISSF World Shooting Championship, Belgrade, 2011
Gold Medal at the ISSF World Championship, Munich,
Germany 2010. He equalled the world record at this event.
Gold Medal at the International Junior Shooting Championshiops, Suhl, Germany, 2010.
Gold Medal in Double Trap Shooting at Singapore
Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, Pune, 2008.
Gold Medal at the International Junior World Cup Shooting Championship 2009.