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As India hits bull's eye at Tokyo, competitive shooting witnesses popularity spike

With multiple Olympic medals and recent governmental boost for competitive shooting, the sport is garnering all attention.
 

Published: 12th September 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2021 01:58 PM   |  A+A-

Avani Lekhara smiles on the range on her way to winning the Shooting Women's 10m AR Standing SH1 Final at the Asaka Shooting Range during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Avani Lekhara smiles on the range on her way to winning the Shooting Women's 10m AR Standing SH1 Final at the Asaka Shooting Range during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. (Photo | AP)

Nine-year-old Arnav Bhasin held his pistol ramrod straight. Like a modern-day Arjuna, he had eyes only for his target. Despite a mere two months of practice, this precocious child hit the bulls-eye and took home the Bronze in the Evoke Open Shooting Championship held in Siri Fort Shooting Range. The win encouraged him to pursue the sport actively. His latest medal haul is a Silver at the Indian Revenue Open Shooting Championship. His father, Anil, is a keen shooter himself. He says, “Parents should encourage children to take up at least one sport. It is necessary for their overall growth and well-being. Youngsters are full of energy and if harnessed in the right direction, the sky is the limit.” Inspired by his brother’s success, five-year-old Aryan has also begun training.

Arnav

The two Bhasin boys are apt examples of the rising trend among the young taking up this elite sport, once considered too expensive to pursue. Things have changed tremendously in the last few years. From the days of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bindra to the recent wins of Avani Lekhara, Singhraj Adhana and Manish Narwal, India’s impressive Olympic performance has given hopes to many. This is also evident from the fact that the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) currently has about 8,000 members, a sizeable number of which are under the age of 21.

Olympian Shagun Chowdhary developed an interest by watching her father Sushil practice skeet shooting when she was only three years old. She took up the sport seriously only at the age of 17 when she moved to Delhi. She trained for clay pigeon shooting at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Tughlakabad, and won numerous national and international accolades. Her sister Shreiya also began at 13 and represented the country competitively for many years before switching careers to become a Creative Technologist.

Both sisters highlight that while pistols are easier for children to handle, shotguns used typically for clay trap shooting are more demanding. Shagun shares that in some cases, muscles are not developed enough to support the heavyweight of the firearm.  

However, everyone’s physiology and capacity are different. Faridabad-based Bhowneesh Mendiratta took up double trap, and eventually trap shooting at 15. In the last seven years, he has won numerous national and international medals. He shares, “You may be talented but that’s not a guarantee of success. This uncertainty encourages me to push my limits.” Avtar Singh Sethi, President of South Asian Shooting Confederation and designated Lifetime President of NRAI owing to his association with the organisation since 1978, has seen tremendous change in the sport in the last 43 years. 

“The liberalised policies of the government and our noteworthy Olympic wins are the main reasons,” he says. Recent legislation, specifically Rule 36 of the Arms Rules 2016, allows the use of arms to any shooter above the age of 12 years for purposes of training. Lucrative sponsorships, world-class and fully-equipped shooting ranges, and the transparent and fair selection of teams by the NRAI, are other reasons he cites for the popularity of the sport.

Best Shooting Ranges in the Country
✥ Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Tughlakabad, Delhi-NCR
✥ Gun for Glory, Shiv Chhatrapati Complex, Pune
✥ Guru Dronacharya Shooting Range, Gurugram
✥ SportzCraft Inc, Delhi and Mumbai
✥ Maharashtra Rifle 

Association, Mumbai
✥  Royal Sports Shooting Academy, Bengaluru
✥  Siri Fort Shooting Range, Delhi

What it takes to Succeed
✥ Mental strength
✥ A good coach
✥ Practice in various ranges
✥ Dedication and focused approach
✥ Consistency
✥ Hard work
✥ Commitment
✥ Good quality of equipment
✥ Passion for the sport
✥ Encouragement of parents and teachers



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