THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The timing, frequent postponements and little interest among internationally-acclaimed stars sometimes rob the National Games of vibe and verve. Even the Games here has its share of pullouts, especially in badminton, hockey and boxing. Somehow, the story in the newly-built shooting ranges will be different. There is a sprinkling of star-dust.
Foremost will be 2014 Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist Jitu Rai (Services). London Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang (Andhra), silver star Vijay Kumar (Services), former world champion Tejaswini R Sawant (Maharashtra) and Kerala’s own Elizabeth Susan Koshy too will fire a few bullets.
Rai, the most impressive Indian shooter in 2014, felt top shooters could take the National Games as a training ground for the busy season ahead of them. For the 27-year-old himself, the Games will play a crucial role in his build-up to Rio in 2016. “After taking a small break post the world championships, this will be an ideal platform for me to warm up for the upcoming World Cups,” Rai told TNIE on Saturday. “I have to improve my score. Winning a few medals for my Services team too is important.”
Vijay also believes the Games will be an important competition for the shooters this time. “This Kerala trip is going to be an important one for us. The Games in itself is a prestigious event to participate and the points acquired during the tournament and trials following the Games will play a part in our selections for the World Cups and in turn the Olympics,” he said. “I am doing well in practice and hope to improve. Almost all our top shooters are here.”
It also looks like the National Rifle Association of India has developed a liking for the new Shooting Range at Vattiyoorkavu which also explains the presence of top shooters for the Games.
“The 15th Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Shooting Championship will be held from February 10 to 16 here while two national selection trials ahead of the World Cups will be held between February 17 and 25,” said former national shooting coach Sunny Thomas.
“I think this is one of the reasons why we have a good contingent of shooters here for the Games,” Thomas said. The remaining three World Cups which will decide India’s quota at the 2016 Olympics are to be held at USA, Germany and Azerbaijan starting May.
Meanwhile, Manmeet Singh Goindi, director (personnel and coaching) of Sports Authority of India, said the shooting range here is on par with the Karni Singh Shooting Range in Delhi, adding that the national shooting camps could be held at Thiruvananthapuram in future.
Rai, who will compete in the 10m air pistol and 50m pistol events, also believes that the moderate climate in Kerala is ideal for holding shooting events. “The Games Village is one of the best I have been to. The food is nice and the climate too. Only thing I am wary of is the factor of wind at the shooting range,” said the shooter, who is yet to visit the facility here.