CHENNAI: At the recently-held Olympics, India finished a distant 67th in the overall medals tally.
If not for PV Sindhu’s silver lining and Sakshi Malik’s brave effort, the outcome could have been much worse. Prior to Rio, it was the shooters who were tipped to go out all guns blazing and make India proud. But they flattered to deceive, albeit with some close misses.
The seniors might have misfired at the mega event, but youngsters continue to exhibit promise for the future.
The juniors recently finished a commendable second at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Gabala (Azerbaijan), with a haul of nine gold, five silver and 10 bronze medals.
Happy with their wards, the coaches were cautious with their assessments. Pistol coach Jaspal Rana felt that with adequate support from government and accountability for funding, shooters will continue to prosper.
“This result proves that we have big enough talent pool to do well in major competitions. If not for a few close misses, we could have beaten Russia too,” Rana told Express.
The former World Championship gold medallist felt that a bigger challenge lies ahead for them. “To remain in the top-three will be a tough task.”
Rifle coach Deepali Deshpande said that this is just another stepping stone for youngsters. “This result will give them the motivation to work harder. But, they still got a long way to go. Many of them have a year left to enter the senior phase. Many of them have to pull up their socks. These shooters are young and are not aware that things can change very rapidly. They must keep up the pace,” the Olympian remarked.
After the success of Abhinav Bindra, many youngsters — backed by parents and their respective states — have taken up the sport. Deepali is delighted to see this influx of young talent. “In the past, shooters would come mainly from the north. But, in the last few years, we have seen youngsters from every nook and corner of the nation. It is a good sign.”
Parents accompanying a young shooter is a familiar sight. The coaches, though, feel their presence is disturbing. “They have to let their wards become independent. When a parent comes along, the shooter will miss the company of other shooters who are around. The chance to build team spirit is wasted. In some cases, it is permissible, but not every time,” Jaspal opined.
“A lot of learning is achieved through interaction with teammates. It is a big factor. Shooters need to be independent,” Deepali observed. “I have convinced a lot of parents to not come along, and they have agreed.”
Deepali has high hopes on Gaayathri Nithyanandam, who was the lone female to bag an individual medal (50m rifle three positions). The Coimbatore girl has been a consistent performer over the last few years. “In the last two events, I had just missed out on a podium finish. I’m happy that I could win a medal,” Gaayathri reflected.
A relaxed approach helped Gaayathri achieve the same. “I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted to give my best. My experience in the last two years have helped my cause. I have learnt my pros and cons, and I have based my approach to shooting on that.”