Just eight years ago, a teen-aged Jitu Rai was growing paddy, potatoes and corn on his family farm in a tiny village in eastern Nepal. And on Saturday he was standing on top of the podium, receiving India’s first gold medal of the 2014 Asian Games.
As the medal hung from his neck, Rai, who was an image of calm in his pursuit of the 50m air pistol gold, showed first signs of emotion. It was a mixture of relief and joy, and vindication. Rai had given up his country of birth and left his family behind to pursue an Army career in India. This moment of victory seemed to have made his long journey worth it.
Leading the life of a farmer, Rai had little idea that the destiny of a shooting hero awaited him, least of all representing India. Coming from a financially weaker background, Rai’s story is an inspiration for all who want to make it big. He lost his father in 2006, and his mother who is a farmer, single-handedly took care of him and his two siblings. Rai is being looked after by a non-profit organization Olympic Gold Quest which takes care of his needs. He joined the Indian Army's 11th Gorkha Regiment in 2006 where he was first handed a rifle, but was sent back due to his poor performance in the Mhow trials.
He was called back last year after some impressive performances in the domestic circuit. In his first major international year, he has returned with a medal in every competition he has entered. Since June, he has won gold medals at World Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Championship. Because of this stunning streak, Rai’s reputation is growing on the world shooting circuit. So is his fan-following.