CHENNAI: How things can change so fast. Not long ago, Indian shooters were the toast of the nation, and rightly so. Medal after medal, they were in a happy space, the entire team comprising shooters from all age groups and coaches seemed to be one happy family. Barely four days into the Tokyo Olympics, the mood in the camp has changed dramatically.
Medal prospects before the start of the Games are being labelled as failures now. Barring Saurabh Chaudhary, the shooters have been unable to get anywhere close to their old happy state. Tuesday was another low as the Indians flopped again at the 10m mixed team events — both pistol and rifle. Saurabh and Manu Bhaker finished seventh while Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Abhishek Verma had finished a distant 17th. Just an hour later, rifle shooters Elavenil Valarivan, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Anjum Moudgil and Deepak Kumar also missed out.
National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) chief Raninder Singh, who was following the events in Tokyo, was far from impressed and questioned the performances, baring skeletons in the closet.
Manu, who had entered the Games as one of the hot favourites, had stopped working with Jaspal Rana not so long ago. It was clear that something was not right. Crossed with the poor showing of the shooters so far, Raninder felt the issue between Manu and Jaspal could have affected the former's performance.
"Before Croatia...during Delhi World Cup, there was a lot of internal wrangling amongst pistol coaches. That was addressed to all by me. I had written an eight-page letter prior to the team leaving for Croatia. I cannot speak for individuals, we have honoured all our coaches, all our ex-athletes. It was I who brought him to the programme. If for reasons, best known to him and the athletes concerned, if they are unable to work together...this is not China where we live, I can't dictate, you can do this and you can't do that," he told reporters.
He revealed that he tried twice to become the peacemaker between Jaspal and Manu, including her parents before and after the Delhi World Cup in March. "When you are involved in the build-up to the Olympic Games as the head of the family, you have to keep the peace. They didn't get along. It was not just Jaspal who couldn't get along. The girl cited something, the parents cited something. Jaspal, in his defence, cited something."
Manu, who is currently working under high performance manager Ronak Pandit, had narrowly missed out on the finals after facing gun issues in the women's 10m air pistol event. "But all this is not Jaspal's fault. I can certainly say all this might have had an impact on Manu."
It's likely that this Olympics could be final outing for some coaches as Raninder said that he's looking to make a big change. "The performances have not been on expected lines and I have spoken of an overhaul of coaching and support staff as I feel something is lacking in getting our shooters prepared for these big occasions because clearly the talent is there and we have seen it here as well."