NEW DELHI: Indian shooters may not have achieved what they had set out to in the Tokyo Olympics but one Indian has had a hand in three medals won at the Games by marksmen from two countries.
The one common thing about the USA's William Shaner and Lucas Kozeniesky, and Serbian Milenko Sebic, is that all these three shooters had taken part in various online tournaments organised by former India rifleman Shimon Sharif.
He had conceptualised the event when the COVID-19 lockdown was in force last year.
However, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) had banned the country's shooters from participating in the online tournaments, depriving them of what Sharif and few others from the fraternity believe "valuable preparation" ahead of the Games.
A few of them, though, did take part before the ban was imposed by the national federation as the events were not recognised by NRAI.
In Tokyo, the 20-year-old Shaner won gold in men's 10m air rifle with an Olympic record score of 251.6, after which, India's 2008 Beijing Games hero Abhinav Bindra wrote to Sharif on Twitter, "Am sure your online competition had a positive role in his preparation."
Kozeniesky, who is also from the United States, won the silver medal in mixed 10m air rifle event.
While on the final day of shooting competition, Sebic bagged the bronze medal in the men's 50m rifle 3 positions event with a score of 448.2.
"After ISSF cancelled all international competitions including the World Cups in 2020 due to the pandemic, I conceptualised online shooting to specially help Olympic-bound shooters prepare for Tokyo," Sharif said.
"Many world-class shooters used our competitions to keep themselves in the competition mode. These were very high pressure formats which put immense pressure on the shooters. It offered a very good opportunity to train for Tokyo."
According to Sharif, who has also competed in the ISSF World Cup, the biggest thumbs up for his initiative came from USA shooting coach Dan Durben, who was effusive in his praise of 'TOPGUN', after which the tournament is named.
"The American shooters including newly crowned Olympic champion William Shaner and silver medallist in mixed air rifle Lucas Kozeniesky both competed in our online competitions to prepare for Tokyo.
"In fact, Lucas was a participant in the 10-day event 'TOPGUN' held in May this year. Both also competed in the last International Online Shooting Championship (IOSC) held last month," Sharif said.
On Monday, after the Serbian claimed the bronze medal, Sharif tweeted, "Once again on the podium is someone who made good use of our online shooting competitions to prepare himself for Olympics. Congratulations Milenko Sebic."