NEW DELHI: The build-up had been ominous with off the field issues threatening to tarnish the upcoming ISSF World Cup without a single pellet being fired. On a sunny Friday afternoon, a day prior to the real deal, the dust finally settled down with shooters surrendering to the surroundings and bringing out their game face. There was even a distinct Michael Jackson music coming from the main range, perhaps adding to the easygoing atmosphere.
Pistol shooters including Heena Sidhu looked focussed as ever. Sourabh Chaudhary bore the same body language and so did the rest who were in the qualifying range. Amidst this, India’s foreign pistol coach Pavel Smirnov seemed pro-active, keeping a close eye on his wards. Pavel is keeping the bar high. “Nothing less than medals/quotas,” he said hastily, before disappearing into the bowels of the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range.
The intensity those pistol shooters put on display could have been mistaken for a real match by a bystander. Even though the 10m air pistol is only going to be held on Tuesday, they were making use of every passing second. “It (practice) has been going smoothly. She is in a good frame of mind,” Ronak Pandit, Heena’s coach, said. Fellow shooter Abhishek Verma echoed those same lines, adding that he is focussed on performance.
But before Heena & Co can show their calibre, it will be the rifle shooters who will be first to step onto the range. From India’s perspective, this is an event where they have already secured two quotas through Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela. Both will be lining up on Saturday along with Elavenil Valarivan, who is the third shooter in this event.
One might regard this to be just a preparatory outing for the duo but it’s much more than that. With National Rifle Association of India’s selection policy, no shooter can take things for granted. Elavenil enters the scene with quite a reputation too. The Cuddlore-born shooter, who resides in Ahmedabad, will be determined to make a mark at the senior level too. There will be a total of 102 competitors from 44 nations in the fray.
Besides, the men’s 50m rifle 3 position will also begin with two elimination stages. Apart from that, the women’s 25m pistol is also due to commence with the precision stage. All eyes will be on Manu Bhaker, Rahi Sarnobat and Chinki Yadav. Outside the qualifying range, the shooters’ traffic was quite busy with most of them calling it a day and leaving the premises. Some seemed relaxed, exchanging smiles. It seemed like most had aced the mock test. The real test begins in a few hours.