CHENNAI: Change is constant. Those associated with shooting live by that adage. Of the 23 Indians gunning for medals and Olympic quotas at the ISSF World Cup, eight will be making their maiden appearances in the event in Delhi from February 20. Even for a sport which has seen big guns like Jitu Rai in and out of the team, eight newcomers is a striking figure, especially if one takes into account what’s at stake.
The competition has 16 quota places on offer. Aside from 23, there will be 12 more including Anjum Moudgil — who has already secured an Olympic berth for India — in action in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section.
Competing in this doesn’t fetch medals, but keeps shooters in with a chance of being eligible for the Olympics. Among fresh faces are Divyansh Singh Panwar, Parul Kumar and Sunidhi Chauhan in the rifle section. Anuradha, Ravinder Singh, Arpit Goel, Adarsh Singh and Chinki Yadav complete the rest in the pistol section. They might be unknown but are in the picture on merit. “Our selection policy is quite dynamic. There are high chances of changes on a regular basis. Based on current form, the shooters are handed a chance to show their calibre,” said coach Manoj Kumar, who is part of the national camp in Delhi.
The abundance of talent due to the growing popularity of shooting has made the sport competitive at all levels, thus making it possible for the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to adopt such a policy. Deepali Deshpande, national junior coach, is not surprised by this trend of constant shuffling. “The sport has become accessible. The NRAI’s policies in the last few years and inputs from the government have created an environment for former shooters to take up coaching. There are lots of small pockets where facilities are available.”
Deepali, who is assisting Anjum, feels the upcoming event will be a learning curve for the first-timers. “As for rifle shooters, we should not expect much. They still have a long way to go. We should just let them explore and gain experience. Let them take time to grow, let them figure out what is right or wrong.”
Sunidhi is excited, having got a chance to interact with teammates for the first time after joining the camp on February 5. The 21-year-old from MP Shooting Academy was handed the opportunity in place of Anjum in 50m rifle 3 positions. “I’m excited, but trying to keep calm, looking up to the rest of the team,” said the Bhopal girl, who won bronze in the nationals late last year. She is not keeping unrealistic targets and is just looking to soak in the experience and giver her 100 per cent.
Parul is also looking to stay focussed. The Indian Air Force shooter from Ghaziabad is not fazed by this challenge and is keen to give a good account of himself. “I’m just looking to give my best and make my country proud. I want to train well and I’m sure the performance will be good. The coaches have also been supportive,” the 24-year-old said.
It will be an uphill test for the debutants with the cream of the sport vying for Tokyo tickets. But it won’t be a surprise if they punch above weight to make headlines.