CHENNAI: Eight shooters have claimed the Olympic berth so far. And there are many shooters, including Vijay Kumar, Heena Sidhu and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, looking to add to that tally. They have just one shot left to attain it and they could most likely have home comfort to realise it.
The final qualifying event, which was dropped from Kuwait — Asian Championships — this month, could be held in New Delhi early next year (January 24-February 4). However, the official word is yet to arrive from the ISSF and it remains to be seen whether the shooters will actually get to compete for the final qualifiers in the Delhi shooting range.
“The event will most likely be held in New Delhi but we have not received the official communication from the ISSF. We will get the official confirmation within a few days,” Rajiv Bhatia, NRAI secretary, told Express.
Vijay was enduring a difficut period, until he regained form in the recently-held Asian Championships in Kuwait. The pistol shooter is hopeful that India’s bid to stage the event will come true. “If it happens in India, it will be really nice. Home advantage could play a big factor. I would love to shoot in front of the home crowd and hopefully claim the Olympic quota,” said Vijay.
While home support might aid the Indian hopefuls, it might also add extra bit of pressure. Veteran trap marksman Manavjit is well aware of the nervous energy that can affect a shooter while performing in front of home fans. “Of course home advantage will be there, but then again there will be added pressure as the home crowd will have high expectations. But overall we have the potential to do well and win lot of quota places,” the multiple Olympian opined.
Another hopeful Pooja Ghatkar agrees with Manavjit. The 2014 Asian Airgun Championships gold medallist, who competes alongside Apurvi Chandela, is also gunning for that elusive quota. “I don’t know! It is good to gain the home advantage but it also adds to lot of pressure in front of the fans. But hopefully, if it does happen in Delhi, I’ll look to perform to the best of my abilities,” said the 26-year-old.
Former India coach and also life-time member of the NRAI Sunny Thomas is also hopeful that the ISSF will confirm India as host nation.
“India were one of the first countries to request for hosting the event. But it is still undecided. There are four or five nations fighting it out to host the event. It all boils down to ISSF’s decision. I would be happy to have the event here,” he said.
As it stands, Jitu Rai, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Apurvi, Gurpreet Singh, Prakash Nanjappa, Chain Singh and Mairaj Khan — hold tickets to Rio next year.