THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:As far as popular sporting legacies go, Tamil Nadu is a land of racquets and bats. Correspondingly, Kerala churns out leapers and runners. But a trio of shooters—a pair of sisters from Tamil Nadu and a voguish counterpart from Kerala—has signaled that shooting has captured the imagination of youngsters down South as well. And now, it’s no longer about Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
When Abhinav Bindra fetched the epochal Olympics gold in Beijing, the Tamil Nadu Shooting Association was a divided association. The graph wasn’t exactly shooting up in Kerala either. But shooting still caught the collective imagination of quite a lot of youngsters. Across the country, there was an unprecedented boom in shooting academies, some fake and some in right earnest. Though neither Bindra himself nor his compatriots of the shooting clan could match his feat in the London Games, there is plenty of promise on the shooting front.
Kochi-based Elizabeth Susan Koshy, who won Kerala’s first-ever shooting gold at the National Games, and Khliji siblings, Asiya and Asila, of Chennai have only reinforced this swelling stock of shooters. Elizabeth can’t be exactly called a rookie, for the 20-year-old has been making waves since her early teens and had competed in the Glasgow Games. But the Tamil Nadu pair has remained mostly obscure from the public realm. Asiya, who is doing her PhD in the Madras University, is a year elder to Elizabeth and has won medals in national events. Her younger sister Asila is in ninth standard.
That said, Tamil Nadu, whose gold-medal count stands at three after lifter Satish Shivalingam’s gold hasn’t strayed asunder from their traditional stranglehold of racquet sports. They are assured of two yellow metals in squash and there is also the prospect of tennis gold. Kerala, meanwhile, took their tally to six, the last coming surprisingly from diving (men’s 10m platform diving). This again was a drift from tradition, as the recipient Siddharth Paradesi is from Maharashtra. Usually, it’s the other way around, as Kerala’s is the most generous feeder State.
But when it comes to sporting pedigree, no State or unit can match Haryana’s versatility, especially in contact sports such as wrestling and boxing, two spheres where India are genuinely top-class or thereabouts in the world. Their wrestlers have claimed 13 of the 18 gold medals so far.
Given the early trend, it would be a two-horse race for the championship between Haryana and Services. Services’ lifter Vikas Thakur (-85kg), who had narrowly missed out a gold in the Glasgow Games, became the first to notch up a national record, as he created a snatch record 153kg.