Heena Sidhu

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The Times of India, Aug 02 2016

Dhananjay Roy 

Hailing from a family of shooters in Patiala, Heena has been one of India's most consistent performers in the recent past, and holds the world record in her pet discipline: the 10m air pistol. The 26-year-old won gold at the World Cup Finals in Munich in 2013, beating the world champion Zorana Arunovic of Serbia.

The former World No. 1 is coached by her husband Ronak Pandit, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Mumbai, and is the daughter-in-law of another multiple-medal winner Ashok Pandit.

“In February 2012, she told me: `I need you to be my coach.' And since I took up the challenge, she has trusted me with every decision,“ said Ronak, 31, adding: “In these years she has fired between 15,000-20,000 shots during practice and each one of them has been monitored and documented by me.“

“Heena is an introvert. She will not open up to people easily . Her nature and approach is suited to a sport like shooting which requires a great deal of focus, discipline and persistence,“ reckoned Ronak. “In fact, she is so engrossed in training round the year that she ends up upsetting some people close to her as they feel she is not giving them sufficient time.“ Also, the fact that Heena is not obsessed with only her sport has allowed her to cultivate multiple interests. She is a qualified doctor and an art and music enthusiast.

“As a student I always wanted to become a doctor. I wanted to know how the body works, how the mind works. It was very fascinating,“ she said.

But does it not get claustrophobic at times, spending all your time in the midst of people who have always been into shooting? Heena believes it's the understanding of the sport, and the appreciation of her individuality by people around her that helps her stay fully focussed. “My inlaws have been very supportive of me.They understand the nuances of shooting and the kind of sacrifice it involves.

“Also, having Ronak by my side has made things a lot easier. He keeps encouraging me, and takes care of all the paperwork that's required. That's not a small thing since shooters have to go through a lot of hassle, be it spending hours at airports to get our weapons cleared, or every other thing that we need while training.“

As for Ronak, there are times when adjustments have to be made. “Playing the dual role of husband and coach is not easy. But we are two friends living together, so that takes care of a lot of things.“

2016: Won't wear hijab, skips Asian Championships in Iran

Biju BabuCyriac, Heena no to Iran hijab code, Oct 29 2016 : The Times of India

`You Practise Your Religion, Let Me Practise Mine'

Defending champion Heena Sidhu –has pulled out of the Asian Airgun Shooting Championships to be held in Tehran in December 2016 citing her inability to adhere to the dress code for women -wearing a hijab -in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“It is not a sporting thing, forcing tourists or foreign guests to do this (wear a hijab). I don't like it, so I pulled out,“ Heena told TOI. Asked why she has taken such a stand when the other shooters in the team are ready to comply with the regulations and compete, Heena said it is matter of personal choice.

“You are practising your religion, let me practise mine. If you are forcing your religious beliefs on me then I don't want to compete,“ the pistol shooter said. The organizers of the tournament, scheduled be held from Dec 3 to 9, have made it clear on the official website that “women's clothing in the shooting range and public places is required to conform to the rules and regulation of IR Iran.“

This is not the first time Heena has pulled out of an event in Iran.“Yes, I had pulled out once before. I think it was two years back because of the same reason. It's only Iran which does this. No other country does this,“ said Heena, who has travelled to several Islamic countries.

In the last edition of the event held in New Delhi, Heena had won the gold ahead of teammate Shweta Singh. She also helped India win the team gold in the meet which saw the hosts win the overall title with a haul of 17 medals.

Heena said she informed National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) about her decision to skip the event nearly three weeks back.“I wrote to NRAI some 20 days back that I'm pulling out,“ Heena said.Her place in the 10m air pistol team has now gone to Harveen Sarao.The other two members of the air pistol squad are Ruchita Vinerkar and Sarvesh Tomar.

Meanwhile, NRAI president Raninder Singh said Indians shooters have always accepted the Iranian tradition. “We have good relations with the Iranian shooting federation and we respect their culture and tradition. Everyone who goes to Iran -the tourists, the diplomats -wears the hijab. Except Heena, all other Indian women shooters have accepted it,“ he said

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