Tilottama Sen’s rise as a shooter has been fascinating. From watching Chhota Bheem on TV three years ago to becoming an international medalist in just two years, the Bengaluru girl has been hitting new targets at every outing on the big stage. Tilottama, 15, became the youngest Indian athlete ever to qualify for the Olympics by ‘winning’ a quota for the Paris Games. She clinched silver in the 10m air rifle event at the ongoing Asian Championships in Changwon, South Korea, which got her a berth for Paris.
The quota belongs to the country and Tilottama’s participation in the Paris Olympics next year will be subject to her clearing the selection criteria set by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). If she is selected for the Paris Games, she will become the third youngest Indian – after swimmer Arati Saha (12) and sprinter PT Usha (16) – to participate in the Olympics. Tilottama will also break Abhinav Bindra’s record of being the youngest shooter at the Olympics. Bindra was 17 when he competed at the Sydney Games in 2000.
In the men’s 10m air rifle category, Arjun Babuta also won silver and a quota place for the Paris Games. Indian shooters now have 10 quotas for Paris. Tilottama had missed out on winning the quota at the World Championships in August as she finished fourth behind teammate Mehuli Ghosh. Although there were four quota places on offer, as per the new rule, only one shooter from one country can win a quota at the Worlds.
“I am very happy with my performance today. I won’t deny that I was under pressure, and I am relieved after the medal and quota. It was tough to miss the quota in the World meet, but I worked harder to get my place back in the squad, which I missed for the Asian Games,” Tilottama said.