19-year-old Zeena Khitta stunned some top shooters from the country and snatched her maiden gold in the senior category in women’s air rifle at the National Championships in Bhopal on Thursday. The remarkable shooter from Himachal Pradesh went ahead in the game to surpass the likes of world No. 1 Elavenil Valarivan, World No. 3 Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil and West Bengal’s Mehuli Ghosh. “It’s a good break for me,” said Zeena after her top podium finish.

Zeena shot a score of 627.1 and qualified in fourth place. She turned the tables in the finals when she shot 252.2 in the eight-woman final, leaving behind Ghosh (250.5) and world No. 3 Chandela (227.6) at second and third spots, respectively. While Former World No. 1 and world record holder Chandela was second in the qualification round with a score of 627.4, Ghosh was third (627.2). The seasoned shooter like Moudgil and Valarivan had a disappointing round and failed to qualify, finishing 20th and 24th respectively in the qualification.

Key Takeaways:

  • Himachal Pradesh’s Zeena Khitta won her maiden gold in the senior category in women’s air rifle at the National Championships in Bhopal.
  • She was competing in a field and went ahead in the game to surpass the likes of world No. 1 Elavenil Valarivan, Apurvi Chandela, Anjum Moudgil and Mehuli Ghosh. “It’s a good break for me,” said Khitta after her top podium finish.
  • In the finals, she shot 252.2 leaving behind Ghosh (250.5) and world No. 3 Chandela (227.6) at second and third spots, respectively.

Emerging sporting icon

Zeena was 14 years old and decided to pursue air rifle shooting. “I just started shooting by chance. Since my school in Rohru had a shooting facility, I was regular at the range,” Zeena, who is a first-year college student from Rohru, recalled. Unable to buy her own equipment, Zeena was trained with a weapon provided by her school during her first year of shooting. Finally, in 2015, she purchased her own and has been a regular member of the national squad in age group category.

Zeena defeated the experienced league of Anjum and Apurvi who became the first set of Indian shooters to secure places for the 2020 Olympics

So far, she has competed in several national and international level shooting competitions and has won gold medals in All India Shooting Championship and North Zone Shooting Championship. She has been practicing for last couple of years in the Aradhana Shooting Club’s range. Her biggest inspirations in life are mentor and coach of the club, Virender Singh Banshtu and her father, Prithvi Raj Khitta.

Shooting limelight

Zeena’s father Prithvi Raj Khitta is an apple farmer in Rohru, a region in Himachal Pradesh’s capital Shimla. Zeena claims that she came to know more about rifles from her grandfather who used it to keep wild animals away from their apple orchards to prevent damage. A discovery of national shooter Banshtu, a young Zeena took up shooting in 2015 and won her first national medal, a bronze, at the junior event in Thiruvananthapuram in 2017. And she has not looked back since.

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Zeena has also won the team gold at the junior World Cup at Sydney in March. Last year, she won gold in Women’s 10m Air Rifle at the 1st Khelo India School Games held in New Delhi.

In 2017, Zeena became the first female player to become part of the national shooting team of India in 10 meter air rifle category.

Congratulations to Zeena for putting up excellent performances on the circuit consistently.

Feature image credit: The Hindustan Times

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