BENGALURU: In the last few years, Indian shooters have shown a lot of promise. Barring the 2016 Olympics, they have won medals in almost every major competition. Continuation of the good work is evident in the team’s top-place finish at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing.
Indians did not win medals on the last day, but still ensured a second successive top finish in ISSF World Cups, after the one in New Delhi earlier this year. In Beijing, the team collected three gold and a silver medal. They also secured two Olympic quota spots.
With Tokyo 2020 Olympics just over a year away, it is good sign for the shooters, who have in all bagged five quota places for the event so far. “It’s a fantastic achievement. And it’s not just about the results. It’s about consistency. Our shooters have achieved that. It gives me hope that every shooter who has secured a quota will return with an Olympic medal. That should be the target,” said Deepali Deshpande, India’s junior rifle team coach, from Beijing.
A lot of credit for India’s good showing of late goes to the junior shooters, who seem to be making a smooth transition to the senior circuit. In the last two editions of the World Cup, youngsters like Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker have won medals. Divyansh Panwar, another teenager, has secured an Olympic quota with a silver. They have been creating ripples since last year, starting with the Commonwealth Games.
“Earlier, it was mostly the established shooters who won medals for the country. But now, India is riding on youth power. Shooters in their mid-20s, even teenagers, have done phenomenally well. Our junior shooters have never been so consistent before,” said former shooter Joydeep Karmakar, who coaches Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mehuli Ghosh. “We have to continue the effort.”
What has actually changed that has triggered a rise of young shooters? Deshpande believes it’s the policies of the National Rifle Association of India. Earlier, only those from affluent families could afford travel and compete in international events. Now, youngsters are given more exposure.
“What you see now is the result of the process we started in October 2012. Until then, shooting was more of an individual effort. Now, with many academies making things easier for junior shooters, the field has got bigger and stronger. There are more junior competitions now and that has helped us in selecting the best players.”
However, both these former Olympic shooters warned against being overly happy with the success. “While I feel good, I won’t to go gaga over it. We have to be cautious. Otherwise, these results won’t hold much significance,” said Karmakar, who had finished fourth in the 2012 Olympics. “These youngsters are on a roll. But there will be negatives on the way. That’s when we coaches have to play a big role and guide them to the Olympic podium.”