CHENNAI: It’s official! Indian shooters will have an opportunity to grab Rio quotas at the Delhi shooting range early next year. As reported by Express first, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) has handed the final Olympic qualifying tournament to India.
A total of 35 quota places will be up for grabs in rifle, pistol and shotgun competitions, which will be held from January 25 to February 3. But the competition schedule are yet to be figured out and will be worked out between the ISSF and National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) in December. “It’s done. We have got the official communication today,” Rajiv Bhatia, NRAI secretary, told Express.
NRAI president Raninder Singh was delighted with the turn of events. “This is a huge honour bestowed on the country and our national federation by the ISSF and the IOC and on behalf of the NRAI we express our sincere gratitude, while assuring them that we will do our very best to deliver upon the faith reposed on us,” he said.
The ISSF were on a lookout for a venue after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revoke the Olympic qualifying status of the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait.
Following the IOC’s decision, the ISSF sent invitations to all member federations in Asia to submit proposals for an alternative venue. Five federations including the NRAI had shown keen interest. However, after much consideration, the ISSF executive committee selected the proposal from the NRAI given that India had the capacity to host all the competitions at one place. The NRAI will most likely stick with the same squad sent for the Asian Championships.
The participating nations will only have to shell out travel fares to New Delhi while all the other fees (entry, accommodation, fooding, local transport) will be taken care of by the NRAI.
Former India coach Sunny Thomas is hopeful of a good show. “It’s perfect for Indian shooters. The nationals in December will be perfect preparation. I really expect them to clinch more quotas. However, we should not be overconfident,” he said.
One shooter, he feels, is destined for glory is Heena Sidhu. After a tough run earlier this year, the former World No 1 has got her rhythm back recently. It was at the Delhi shooting range where Heena’s revival surfaced. The Ludhiana-born girl won gold in front of the home crowd and went on to carry her good form to Kuwait, where she grabbed gold yet again. “Heena is a top class shooter, there is no doubt about that. She has the capability to get the quota easily,” he opined.
India pistol coach Mohinder Lal is excited and said playing in familiar conditions is a big boost. “We will hold the edge. It’s great to gain the home advantage. We don’t have to travel and the shooters know the range well. But we have to keep our heads down and perform.”