“Generally sports activities start at the age of 10. I started when I was 18. So there was less time and many things to learn”.
Yes, Om Kubal started late. While at Mumbai’s Ruia College, Om first had an experience of Shooting. Ruia College, known for having one of the best Shooting infrastructures in the city, attracted the first-year student who never thought of pursuing sport. Having been involved in minimum sporting activities in his school days, Om thought of giving ‘Shooting’ a try.
It was 2014 and Om under Shantaram Iyer, his college coach, began his training. Out of many events, he chose 10m Air Rifle.
“I was fairly good in my academics and thought of doing higher studies. But at that point of time, what I enjoyed most was Shooting.”
He discussed the matter with his parents who encouraged him to continue doing things that he enjoyed. The initial investment for buying equipment and ammunitions was not a thing to worry for Om Kubal. It was arranged for him and he respected it by getting himself selected to play national tournament.
“The year I started playing and the year in which I played my first nationals was the same. It was a learning process for me that was immensely helpful in the next tournaments.”
In the 59th National Shooting Championship in 2015, Om Kubal became the proud owner of silver in the junior category with a new national record. He also won bronze in the senior category equaling the national record. He repeated his feat in the 60th National Shooting Championships by winning his second silver in the junior category. In the meantime, the young shooter represented his college in several inter-university tournaments. In 2016 he won the team silver medal for Mumbai University and in 2017 he bagged the individual silver and team gold for his university. He travelled to places to take part in the university programmes that in turn helped him to enhance his vision about Indian sports.
“Before that, I did not know that there is a Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy awarded to the best University of India in sports. There is also an Ashwamedh Trophy in Maharshtra for universities. Likewise, there were many things that became prominent to me once I stepped outside.”
Here is where Om Kubal is stressed a bit. He found out that government, stakeholders and other concerned persons talk about grassroot-level development and often invest in infrastructure in towns and villages. But infrastructure alone cannot develop sport in grassroot level and bring in more youngsters.
“Infrastructural development is needed but what is the use if no one comes to enjoy those facilities? Actually, we are not at all being properly informed about the various schemes and policies for sportsperson in India. A player coming from a non-sports background or a young athlete from a remote village is unaware about the scholarships, programmes or other policies available that will help them to pursue a certain sport.”
This perceptive played an important role in the young man’s life. Once Om passed out from college, he started taking initiatives about reaching to those people who might be playing and having the vision of stepping into the big world but have little knowledge about the nitty-gritty of sport-administration in India.
“Initially, when I started I had an idea that certain facilities are given to sportsperson involved in two or three popular sports in India. But later I found that those things are available for other sportsperson too but we need to know about them. That was the reason I started my own range – Lakshwavedh Rifle and Pistol Shooting Range.”
In 2017, Om Kubal along with his three friends started Lakhwavedh Range in an area of 1000 sq. ft. at Vikhroli in Mumbai. The primary intention for this set up was to make people aware about Shooting being an Olympic sport which can yield great result if someone seriously practice it.
“Me along with Sahil Gawankar, Abhishek Mahadik and Sandesh Harmalkar invested together to bring up this range. The main motive is not only to train people over here but to give them a wholesome knowledge about sport in India. Another very important motive is to remove the notion from the civilians that Shooting belongs to those who come from army background.”
In the first year of its initiation, Om Kubal had a high-rate of participation in his basic courses. But to his utter surprise, there were many who did not continue after finishing the basics.
“The primary reason is the expense involved in Shooting. In the basic course, Open Sight Air Rifle is used which is affordable but as someone moves to the advanced level they have to go for Peep Sight Air Rifle that cost lakhs. Besides, they need ammunition, shooting jackets and other gears. Apart from this there is a mentality that there will not be broad gains if they pursue Shooting as a sport. This is where Indian sport lags.”
Still, with courage and passion, Om Kubal wants to stick to his endeavour. He even now wants to start an Archery centre with the same intention. There will be encumbrance, but he knows that honesty and hard work shall help him cross all the hurdles.