CHENNAI: Fifteen medallists, seven raising the Games bar in the process. Indian shooters were unstoppable during the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, where they finished as table-toppers. This haul was not as if the shooters pulled a rabbit out of a hat. History suggests that the Games have been a rich hunting ground for India men/women with guns. And the build-up had been perfect, after finishing as hotshots during the ISSF World Cup in Mexico earlier this year. But given that the shooters had fired blanks during the 2016 Rio Olympics, this result has infused fresh belief ahead of bigger challenges.
More than the medals, the coaches are delighted with the performances and manner in which the shooters garnered points. “It’s not the medal. The scores that they shot were more important. With the Asian Games and World Championships (this also offers quota places for the Tokyo Olympics) coming up, how they shape up is highly important. The overall display was highly encouraging,” Jaspal Rana, India junior pistol coach, told Express.
Junior rifle coach Deepali Deshpande concurred. “As a coach, medals really don’t excite us. The level of competition in the CWG is not very high. Indian shooters have been winning for long. For us, what matters is the actual performance. On that front, all our shooters shot really well.”Shooters returned home with seven gold, four silver and five bronze medals. Talk about performances — Sanjeev Rajput, Anish Bhanwala, Jitu Rai, Heena Sidhu, Tejaswini Sawant, Mehuli Ghosh (joint) and Manu Bhaker also earned the bragging rights of Games records. Besides, the event also witnessed Indians register six Games qualification records.
And the records are there to stay for some time as the sport, barring a remarkable turnaround, will not be part of the 2022 CWG. Jaspal, a former gold medallist in CWG, understands the gravity of these results.
“It was very important. And also this is the last CWG. We ended on a high. We are still the best among the CWG countries,” he remarked.It might lack tough competition but Deepali is certain that the shooters have experienced a lot. “With expectations from all quarters, there is a certain amount of pressure. To cope with that and come out on top is a big positive.”
With record-breaking hits and medals, the shooters have continued their good start to 2018. But with testing events coming, the coaches are aware that the shooters have plenty of work ahead. “China and European countries (shooting powerhouses) are not going to stay quiet. Their real test begins now,” Jaspal noted.
Deepali’s counsel for the future is simple: maintain the fire in the belly. She knows it will be a hard task but with a kind calendar, she hopes that they can shine further. “We have already been performing really well, we just need to maintain consistency. We have three World Cups and then the Asian Games and the World Championships. World Cups will be a good exposure for the shooters. It will form a base for the Asian Games and the World Championships.”