Sabir Hussain/New Delhi
Almost a decade and a half after he called it a day, Moraad Ali Khan, one of India’s greatest shooters, says that retirement gave him the chance to do things that he wanted to do.
“Retirement has been fun because it has allowed me to do various things that I had wanted to do but never had the time earlier,” Khan told Awaz -The Voice.
The Commonwealth Games trap shooting gold medal winner, is a legend who ended India’s drought of medals in the 1990s. Post-retirement, he has kept himself busy with a clutch of things close to his heart.
“I coached Ronjan Sodhi after I retired. And it feels good that he has been such an accomplished shooter,” Khan said.
Sodhi, who is a double trap shooter, won two silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a gold medal at the Asian Games in the same year. In 2011, he became the first Indian to successfully defend a World Cup title.
Khan retired in 2007 when he was in top form. Soon after retirement, he had set up a sports management company to help in the training of shooters and archers. The company was later wound up.
Moraad Ali Khan with his sons Zaid (L) and Zoeb (R)
He has also dabbled in films and has turned his farmhouse in Morna in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh into a film studio where the television serial ‘Mahabharat’ was shot for many months. He also produced a film ‘Khwaab’ which his son Zaid Ali Khan directed. The film highlighted the hardships of sportspersons in India. Khan turned his farmhouse into a studio in a quest to project western Uttar Pradesh as a potential location for film shoots.
Is he sad that his son did not follow in his footsteps in the world of shooting?
‘No. Everyone has his own interests and when your child grows up you can’t force him to something you want. I am happy for him that he is doing well for himself. But Zaid does take part in shooting competitions.”
It was also largely due to his efforts that Bollywood blockbuster Sultan was shot in Jasnath area of Muzaffarnagar district after he convinced Salman Khan and Yashraj Films.
“A few other films were also shot in the farmhouse,” he said.
Born in Patna into an influential family on June 4, 1961, Khan’s family hails from Uttar Pradesh. His first brush with shooting came during hunting trips with his father Alamdar Ali Khan in the 1970s. But shooting remained a pastime for a long time and even that went into cold storage for about a decade after he joined Tata Steel in 1982.
It wasn’t until 1992 when he was 31 that he returned to shooting with a bang when he won the trap event in the National Rules event which was later renamed the Mavalankar tournament.
Khan also went on to win the national title in both trap and double trap, the most high-profile disciplines in shooting. He remains the only Indian to have won international medals in both trap and double trap events.
Moraad Ali Khan with Zoeb and Zaid
Moraad Ali Khan, an Arjuna Award winner, was a teammate when Mansher Singh won the trap team silver at the Asian Championships in Manila in 1993. The Asian Championships sparked a turnaround in the sport in India.
Among his clutch of stellar performances, he believes his greatest achievement was in 1995 in China.
“Mansher, Manavjit and I brought India's first-ever team gold in international shooting, by winning the trap event in Chengdu in China. But what was most satisfying was that we set an Asian record in the competition,” Khan said.
He was also the first to win the national title when the double trap event was introduced in 1997.
His best performance in the global arena came in 2002 when he teamed up with Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to win India's first international medal in the double trap with a gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.
The former marksman is disappointed at India’s poor showing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where a star-studded contingent drew a blank in July this year after the covid pandemic forced a year’s postponement of the games.
“It was a mental weakness that did the team in. although they are technically very strong. At the Olympic level, the top 50 shooters are of the same calibre. You can’t teach them how to shoot. They only need to be trained how to approach a competition,” Khan said.
He was 46 when he retired in 2007. In 2006, he became the first Indian to be elected to the Athletes Committee of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF).
He also served as an advisor to the sports ministry from 2006 to 2014 and remains connected to shooting in his current capacity as the Chairman of the Athletes Commission of the National Rifle Association of India in Delhi.