Paris 2024: Shooting Para sport star Narwal aiming to hit the target for India again

Manish Narwal shares how he is preparing to defend his Paralympic title at Paris 2024 21 May 2024
Indian shooting Para sport athleteManish Narwal in action
Manish Narwal clinched gold in shooting Para sport at Tokyo 2020
ⒸHiroki Nishioka for World Shooting Para Sport
By AMP Media | For IPC

Indian Para shooter Manish Narwal once said: “Life is all about shooting, starting at five in the morning.” Such dedication would take him to the top of the Paralympic podium at Tokyo 2020, just weeks short of his 20th birthday.

With the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games only about 100 days away, Narwal’s appetite for success is just as strong – well, almost.

“I’ll be honest, I usually hit the snooze button until about seven o’clock,” said Narwal, who won the PR4 mixed 50m pistol SH1 event in Tokyo. “After that, it’s time for a workout, a quick shower, and breakfast. Then I head off to the shooting range to practise.

“My typical day involves some mental training and stretching before I start shooting, then some ‘dry’ practice shots. In the evening, I usually do another workout session.

“I train for four or five hours a day, including visualisation techniques, and some yoga and meditation for focus.”


Narwal is looking to defend his title at Paris 2024. @Hiroki Nishioka/World Shooting Para Sports

From scoring goals to firing shots

Narwal, who has a disability in his right hand, speaks like somebody who has been shooting all his life – in fact, as a child he dreamt of becoming a footballer like one of his heroes, Lionel Messi, but he did not progress beyond regional club level.

In 2016, Narwal went along to the local firing range with his father and the rest was history.

“It took me about two years to realise that I could excel in shooting,” he said. “While my friends were studying or preparing for 'normal' jobs, I was already deeply involved in shooting, practicing for hours. Sometimes, I do miss the fun times with friends.

“I think what appealed to me the most was the precision and focus required. During shooting, I focus solely on my shots. I try to block out everything else and maintain my concentration. Breathing exercises help me stay calm and focused, especially during competitions.”

Indeed, despite the hours of training, it is Narwal’s ability to perform in the heat of battle from such a young age that has set him apart. “Staying calm under pressure is something I have developed over time,” he said. And the results bear that out.


Winning gold at Tokyo 2020

After competing in his first World Shooting Para Sport Championships in 2018, the following year he claimed three bronze medals – two individual, one team. And while Covid-19 came at the wrong time for many athletes preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, for Narwal the year-long postponement allowed him to get ready for the biggest stage.

Narwal trains five hours a day to prepare for the Paris 2024 Paralympics. @Joe Toth/OIS

"It was a tough year for me due to health issues, but the delay due to the pandemic gave me more time to prepare, which turned out to be beneficial," he said.

In the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which opened on 24 August 2021, he won gold at the 2021 Para Shooting World Cup by breaking the world record in the 50m mixed pistol. He then backed that up with gold in Tokyo in the same event.

At Japan’s Asaka Shooting Range, he scored 218 points in the final, while fellow Indian Singhraj took silver with 216.7 points.

"Winning gold was an incredible feeling,” Narwal said. “Competing for the gold medal against my teammate Singhraj was a proud moment for both of us. I was happy that both gold and silver went to India. I celebrated with my teammates and later with my family back in India.

"After Tokyo, I gained more confidence. I never felt afraid to be in front of other people because of my disability but shooting has definitely helped me become more confident and proud – and I do get recognised on the streets sometimes. It feels great to receive such attention."

A champion and a hero

Off the back of his exploits, Narwal was also given the Khel Ratna Award, a prestigious sporting honour in India whose previous winners include cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli as well as track and field star Neeraj Chopra.

“He’s like a big brother to me,” Narwal said of Chopra, the Olympic men’s javelin champion. “He’s from the same state as me and his success inspired me to be better in my sport.”

At 22, though, it is Narwal who has now taken on the role of big brother in the Indian team to the likes of Rudransh Khandelwal, the country’s latest teen Para shooting sensation who has described Narwal as his hero.

“It’s heartening to hear that shooters like him look up to me,” Narwal said. “Having strong teammates like him pushes me to perform better.”

 Khandelwal, left, says Narwal is his idol. @Mary Barber

That certainly seems to have been the case recently, with Narwal winning men’s 10m pistol gold at September’s World Championships in Lima, Peru. Khandelwal had led after the first two rounds, eventually finishing fifth. "Winning the world championship with my team cheering was an incredible experience,” Narwal said.

A month later at the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China, it was Khandelwal who had the upper hand, claiming silver ahead of Narwal (bronze) in the men’s 10m pistol and another silver in the mixed 50m pistol.


Living a Paralympic dream

Narwal insists his motivation ahead of Paris 2024 comes less from beating his rivals or teammates and more from “wanting to win more Paralympic medals for my country and family".

“I’m aiming for another successful performance, whether it’s for gold or not,” he said. "I've always had short-term goals, so I never dreamt of participating in the Olympics or Paralympics when I was young."

"I prefer staying in the present moment and focusing on performing well rather than setting bigger goals." 

One thing is for sure: his alarm clock will be set.


Book your tickets for the Paralympic Games by visiting the Paris 2024 ticketing website.