In 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent months, an 11-year old Tilottama Sen would be busy watching Chhota Bheem and other cartoons on Pogo at her home in Bengaluru. It was then that her father Sujit Sen, a Tech Mahindra employee, took her to a nearby shooting range to take her mind off them.
On Tuesday, when the 14-year-old Tilottama won the bronze medal in women’s 10m Air Rifle event at the ISSF World Cup in Cairo with a score of 262.0 in the ranking match, Sujit, his wife Nandita and son Srijan headed to a temple.
“While Tilottama played volleyball and karate, she would spend time watching Chhota Bheem and other cartoons on Pogo most of the time sitting at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. She was physically strong and when we took her to a shooting range, she was happy that she had something to practise all day,” the proud father told The Indian Express.
The day ends well for 🇮🇳 at the ISSF Shooting World Cup.
Its🥉for 🇮🇳 in the 10m Air Rifle Women’s Event!
14yr old Tilottama brings glory for the nation as she becomes 🇮🇳’s youngest medalist in the Sr. Shooting World Cup 🥳
Heartiest congratulations champ👏 pic.twitter.com/cbsXAfuLUs
— SAI Media (@Media_SAI) February 21, 2023
The youngster initially trained under coach Sharanandra at his academy for four months before refining her skills under various coaches and academies in Bengaluru. Within months, she had shot a perfect 400/400 in the Karnataka State Shooting Championships.
“Initially, competing in rifle shooting was tiring for me with the rifle and jacket. It took me some time to adjust but as I practised more, I enjoyed it a lot,” Tilottama told The Indian Express from Cairo.
After a silver and three bronze medals in the junior category at the 2021 nationals, she finished sixth in the senior women’s 10m air rifle event at last year’s nationals.
“The first rifle she got was for Rs 2.35 lakh and the jacket cost Rs 65,000. I spent that from my savings and would travel daily with her to the academy on my bike. While she practised, I would work on my laptop the whole day and we would return in the evening after her training sessions,” recalled Sujit.
Last year, she won the bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in Cairo and this year has seen the youngster topping the trial 1 and trial 2 conducted by NRAI. Last year, she also won the silver medal at the national games.
Coach Rakesh Manpat, who worked with Tilottama till the end of 2022, remembers her exceeding the finals world record in an online meet in 2021.
“Tilottama was very sharp in picking up the basics of rifle shooting and she had all the basic techniques perfected in her mind in a very short time. In an online meet conducted by us in association with Abhinav Bindra and Niccolo Campriani, she shot more than the final world record score of 252.2. She loves shooting and shoots 200-300 shots in a day. Her biggest strength is her focus,” Manpat said.
On Tuesday, Tilottama finished second behind Tokyo Olympian Seonaid Mcintosh of Great Britain in qualification with a score of 632.7 with two other Indians Ramita Jindal and Narmada Raju too qualifying for the ranking match. In the eight-shooter ranking series, she was competing in a field consisting of four Olympians, including Tokyo Olympics 10m air rifle bronze medallist and 50m 3P gold medallist Nina Christien of Switzerland. In her 25 shots, Tilottama shot 16 shots of 10.5 or above including two shots of 10.9.
“I was competing against myself and whenever and wherever I shoot, I don’t think about whom I am competing against. So it doesn’t matter if there is an Olympic champion in the field. I started badly but the second and third series made me believe that I can win a medal here,” she said.