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'The toughest is the mental side' - Kazakhstan’s Nikita Chiryukin talks about his expectations at 2024 Paris Olympics

Published at :May 13, 2024 at 3:02 PM
Modified at :May 13, 2024 at 3:02 PM
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(Courtesy : International Shooting Sport Federation)

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Nikita Chiryukin secured the Olympic quota at the Asian Championships in Jakarta, earlier this year.

Kazakhstan’s Nikita Chiryukin began 2024 by earning a Paris Olympics quota place in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event with victory at the Asian Championships in Jakarta. Later in January the 21-year-old world junior champion added Cairo World Cup silver to the gold he had earned in 2023, also in Jakarta.

Q: How much confidence did you gain from starting the year by winning the Asian 25m rapid fire pistol title and a Paris Quota place in Jakarta?

Nikita Chiryukin: After the Asian Championships, I only had three training days before flying to participate at the World Cup in Cairo.  But I wasn’t worried about it, I was calm after I took the quota for the Olympics, and I told myself, “Just try to do your job well.”  And it helped – I reached the final and won a silver medal.

After these two competitions together, I felt confident in myself that I could reach the finals of every competition.

Q: How much of a factor was it that you had won your first World Cup title at the same venue in Jakarta a year earlier?

Nikita Chiryukin: I don’t think that after winning the World Cup in Indonesia I had an advantage at the Asian Championships here.  I just knew what the shooting range looked like and what the weather would be like.  But after two victories, I want to come to Indonesia more often, I liked it here

Q: You topped qualifying and dominated the final at the Asian Championships to win with a score of 32. But afterwards you told ISSF TV: “I need to train a lot because to be honest this result was not enough for the Olympics.” Are you being hard on yourself – or is this just reality in your opinion?

Nikita Chiryukin: Now I think that I was kinda hard on myself on that moment because the last 20 shots of the final were not as good as the previous ones.  At that time it was a good result.  But still, 32 hits may not be enough to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.  Now I have a more positive attitude towards everything, but I will still try to hit more.

Q: On the same day you won the Asian title your 19-year-old team-mate Alexandra Le also earned an Olympic Quota place in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions. How satisfying was that, and how do you think the Kazakhstan challenge is shaping up for Paris 2024?

Nikita Chiryukin: Sasha is a good shooter, I was happy for her when she took the quota. She can shoot both three positions and air rifles well.  For example, in 2023, she took third place at the World Cup in Bhopal in air rifle.  When she gets to the finals in Paris, I will definitely come to cheer for her.

Q: 2023 was a very good year for you as you also took the world junior title in Changwon. Are you hoping for a similar progression this year?

Nikita Chiryukin: The Junior World Championships were important to me as it was my last year as a junior.  I especially wanted to win the Sport Pistol event since I already won this event at the Asian Championships in 2019.  At JWCH it was tough. We had three people hit the same score and the same number of centre tens, but since I hit the last series of 100, I took the gold medal. It was nice for me to end my junior journey in such a beautiful way.

Q: You said after Jakarta that you would be “fixing” your slight dip in form during the final, when you scored some three-out-of-fives because you were “thinking too much”. Have you succeeded do you think. Do you now have the “full armour” you referred to after your Cairo success?!

Nikita Chiryukin: I definitely work on this in my training.  At the next finals I will find out if there is success.  I hope to test this at the ISSF World Cups in Baku and Munich.

There are still almost four months until Paris, it’s too early to talk about it.  A lot of work goes into this to achieve this “full armour” state.

Q: Who or what was your Olympic inspiration in shooting and/or other sports?

Nikita Chiryukin: I learned a lot from French and German rapid fire pistol shooters, particularly Jean Quiquampoix and Christian Reitz. I can call Vitalina Batsarashkina an inspiration for myself. Her two gold medals in Tokyo in the 10m and 25m pistol  are insane.

Q: What started you in shooting and what is most satisfying about it?

Nikita Chiryukin: I started shooting at the age of 14. My father brought me there because at that time I did nothing but go to school and play computer games.  My father wanted some kind of sporting activity for me, and when he saw an advertisement about recruiting children for shooting sports he thought that I might like it, because I like to play shooter games. 

And so it turned out. I liked shooting, especially at 25 metres range.  So the most satisfying thing for me is to shoot at the 25m range and win these events.  To earn medals, see the flag of your country raised while standing on a podium, to hear and sing the national anthem – all this brings a lot of satisfaction.

Q: How would you sum up the physical and mental aspects of shooting sport? Which is toughest to master?

Nikita Chiryukin: The toughest is the mental side, obviously. You may have the best physical side, best aim, perfect trigger work. You can hit the biggest results on your training.

But if you don’t know how to resist your excitement, your adrenaline, and how to calmly do your job in competitions, your physical side won’t help much.  The physical aspects are definitely important. Without them, you can’t win either.  But for many people, it is harder to develop the mental side.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far in your career?

Nikita Chiryukin: The biggest challenge in my career is to fly to the competition venue. I’m freaking scared of flying. But this can be an additional motivation for me. I don’t want to sit on a plane, worrying about every turbulence, without even winning a medal at the competition. Double disappointment.

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