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Young guns have to learn to face criticism, says Gagan Narang

Shooters who were tipped to challenge for medals have missed out and they are currently under intense scrutiny.  Like most people, Narang is also surprised by the results so far.

Published: 29th July 2021 12:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th July 2021 12:37 AM   |  A+A-

Indian shooter Gagan Narang

Indian shooter Gagan Narang (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Tokyo Olympics is in full swing and it's no surprise Gagan Narang is totally drawn to it. He might not be an active shooter any more but for Narang, a four-time Olympian, that charm and allure of the Games will stay forever. One of the rare shooters from India to have climbed the podium, Narang, whose last Olympic appearance was five years ago in Rio, is visibly emotional while talking about the Games. "I was telling my wife I wish I could have been there. I'm missing the Olympics, I'm missing the atmosphere," the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist said,  in a virtual interaction organised by Sony Sports, when asked whether he's missing being part of the mega event.

Narang might have fond memories, but for the current lot, mostly first-timers, it has been a journey to forget so far. Shooters who were tipped to challenge for medals have missed out and they are currently under intense scrutiny.  Like most people, Narang is also surprised by the results so far. "They all said that they did their best. They had pretty big shoes to fill. But it's not like they were facing the pressure for the first time. They have participated and won in many competitions — World Cups, Asiad and CWG," he said.

Before the Olympics was postponed to 2021, the shooters had been in a different league. Earlier this year, they had topped the table during the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi, but there were not many participants and the scores were also not something that caught the eye. Could the postponement have possibly broken their flow? "An athlete can peak multiple times a year. But again it depends on the training. With Covid coming in, and with them (shooters) not able to train, that could have disrupted the whole peaking programme. Having said that, everything that was supposed to be done was done for them.  They were sent to Croatia on a charter flight. If they were to train here (India), they would have been training in an environment full of  fear. We had a good phase of training (Croatia). There were high scores. I'm not sure what exactly happened," Narang noted.

Elavenil Valarivan, Narang's ward, was one among the highly-rated shooters to draw a blank. The World No 1 could not get past the qualifying hurdle in the women's 10m air rifle. She also missed out in the mixed event along with Divyansh Singh Panwar. "We have been in continuous touch, trying to understand what's going on in her head.  But she basically said 'Sir, I did my best, what technically had to be done, I did and I gave my best but somehow even when I thought I could get 10.6 or 10.7, I was getting 10.4.' That happens usually when your body is not giving you the right feedback or when you are not physically and mentally sharp enough," he said.

Though Elavenil returns empty-handed, the good news for her is she's just 21. Narang is looking to be patient before making detailed analysis. "She was completely confused as to what happened, she was very sad and disappointed. I didn't probe her too much because it's a question of her mental health as well. It's good to give them some time,  come back and introspect, sleep over it a few nights and think each and every day and find out what exactly went wrong."

Narang felt that this is an important learning curve for the youngsters in the team. "They have never faced this amount of criticism as this is their first Olympics. This is a very important phase, they have to learn to face such criticism."

In-form Rahi Sarnobat will be gunning to break the duck for India when she begins her campaign in women's 25m pistol along with Manu Bhaker, who'll be taking part in her third and last event. Narang is hopeful that the remaining shooters can bring some joy. "Frankly, I don't want to keep any expectations at this point of time because we have missed out on events where we felt we could return with a medal. We do have chances, I will not deny that. Rahi is in very good form, Aishwary (Pratap Singh Tomar) is a very enthusiastic guy, Sanjeev (Rajput) has a lot of experience, even Manu (Bhaker) has one event. Hope that they can still deliver."

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