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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bolangir: Cardboards wrapped around school pillars with hand-made paper targets stuck on them. The sight of a boy and a girl with air rifles in their hands shooting at the targets with impeccable accuracy enthralls all who visit the Patitapabana Academy in the western Odisha town of Bolangir.

This is the story of two promising shooters, who unlike many, do not come from well-to-do families. Bina Thappa, an undergraduate student comes from a family of farmers while, Tulu Sen earns livelihood by painting homes. And the only possession both can bank on is their air rifles with which they aspire to make it big in life.

At the first look, they will look like amateurs, target practicing on handmade paper targets without a shooting kit and costume. But there is more to this than meets the eye. In fact, both of them have already won medals in the State Level Shooting Championship. While Bina has won Gold in the Senior women's category, Tulu has a Silver to his name in the 10 Metres air rifle in senior men's category.

Both the lads have already served as cadets in the NCC and do not forget to give credit to their training in the NCC from which they drew their inspiration to become shooters in the first place.

"I do not have a financially strong background to afford sophisticated rifles for practice. Whatever success I have achieved, is with this basic rifle," said Bina.

Tulu, on the other hand, gets into shooting targets whenever he spares time after finishing his job as a house painter. Speaking to OTV, he says, "I had a fair amount of shooting experience at the NCC, that was made to use in the State-Level Championship, in which I won the silver medal in 10 metres air rifle category," said an excited Tulu who desperately wanted to break free from the shackles of poverty to bring home the bacon.

Their coach Madhusudan Podha, RN Singhdeo Shooting Club in the city and the Global Western Odisha Forum have all been contributing to promote them till now. But to compete at the higher level, the shooters need more funds and opportunity.

"We need high-end German rifles and a complete shooting kit to compete at the national level. No two rifles are the same. They need to practice a lot in new rifles before they can even begin to think about playing the nationals," said Podha.

Sidharth Babu from Global Western Odisha Forum who promotes Bina  and Tulu said, "These lads do not even have a shoe. If they can win state-level medals with this kind of infrastructure, then one can only imagine, where they can if basic facilities and a platform are provided to them."

As they say, only those can fly who have guts to take the leap. Both Bina and Tulu are almost on the ledge, and just need a push in the form of funds that will bring them wings to fly higher.

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)

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