Singh hails from a remote village in Hardoi. He lost his right arm in a rash road accident — and there began his journey to aspire for the 2020 Paralympics.
It was a freak accident that changed the course of Vishal Kumar Singh's life.
Hailing from a financially weak family in a remote village in Hardoi, Singh, 24, at one point in his life was employed as a daily wage labourer with NREGS, or National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He then went on to work as a helper for an autorickshaw driver in hopes of making better money. In 2010, his ambitions led him to learn to drive an auto himself. But that's when his life took a drastic turn — he lost his right arm in a road accident.
But what would have crushed anyone's will to live only gave Singh more courage to carry on. Even without his right arm, he now aspires to be part of the national shooting team in the 2020 Paralympics.
Singh always followed sports news on newspapers and magazines. “So in 2014, I approached officials at the Hardoi Sports Stadium to give me an opportunity. The officials there introduced me to crossbow archery. After practising for a while, I learnt that the Paralympics and Olympics did not have a category for crossbow shooting. I was then introduced to the air pistol by my mentor Anil Kaushik, who brought me to Ghaziabad and also sponsored my stay here,” he said.
It was only a fortnight back that he shifted to Ghaziabad and enrolled himself at the Shooting Excellence Centre, a 10m air pistol training centre in Shipra Rivera Tower, Indirapuram.
"I saw his potential during one of his practice sessions at Hardoi Stadium," Kaushik said, who is a well-known crossbow shooter himself and president of Crossbow Shooting Association of India. "And I firmly believe he will succeed."
Pradeep Sharma, a resident of Cloud 9 society who runs the air pistol training centre, feels Singh has shown significant progress over the two weeks that he has been practising at the centre.
“I knew it would take me two years to get somewhere," said Singh. "My parents only wanted me to be successful. They also wanted me to have a job along with my training, so I could support myself.”
Singh trains hard every day. “I still practise crossbow shooting in the morning, then practise holding up a dumbbell to steady my hands. This is followed by training at the centre till late afternoon,” he said.
This trainee marksman did not have enough money to buy a dumbbell for his daily practice. That’s when Kapil Chaudhary, Vishal’s coach, stepped in. “He was saving money to buy a dumbbell, so I gifted him one,” he said.
Meanwhile, Singh is saving up for his own air pistol, which costs around Rs 2 lakh, and is looking for alternative employment to meet his day-to-day expenses.
Looking at Singh’s struggle to keep afloat, one wonders whether India will ever look beyond the established sports — whether these struggling trainees will ever find sponsorships for the choices they have made.
Sharma echoes the same thoughts. “This lack of awareness is the reason why shooting as a sport is lagging behind. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work to accurately hit a point only 10 m away. As a sport, shooting has always maintained a distance from the general masses. We plan to bridge that,” Sharma said, hopefully.
(From right) Saumya Dhyani, Yash Sharma and Vishal Kumar Singh at a practice session