New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Never has an Indian shooting contingent looked stronger going into a Summer Games than it is now, says 2008 gold medalist Abhinav Bindra. Since September 1, 2018 — the beginning of the qualification period for the Tokyo Olympic, Indian shooters have won a record 15 Olympic 2020 quota places.

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“Never have we ever gone to an Olympic 2020 with such bright chances. We have 15 athletes and each one of them, who have talented, is capable of winning a medal,” Bindra told IANS.

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Those that follow Indian shooting or India’s presentation at the Olympic 2020 in general, would be forgiven for tempering their expectations. It turned out to be the first Olympic since 2000 in which no Indian was able to clinch a medal in the shooting event. Bindra, however, feels that the current crop of high-quality shooters is not a product of knee-jerk decisions made after the disappointing show in Rio.

I don’t think such progress can happen because of one poor Olympic. It is a process in which the sport has evolved over the last 10 years and a lot of young people have come through. The process was triggered with the silver we won at Athens 2004, the gold in 2008 and the silver and bronze in London 2012. The government has been supportive and the federation (National Rifle Association of India) has one a good job in promoting a junior program. The results have come over a period of time and not because of something that occurred one or two years ago.

India’s first individual medal at the Tokyo Olympic came through shooting at Athens 2002 when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – who would later go on to serve as sports minister of the country – won silver in the trap event. Interestingly, India did not win an Olympic 2020 quota in the trap this time at all while it won two in skeet. When asked what is it that has led to shotgun events lagging behind pistol and rifle in the country, Bindra said the answer lies in the nature of the sport more than anything else.

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“It is a very young team so it is very hard to predict performance. However, they have already shown that they have what it takes to win at the highest level. That is all we can do going into the Games and then it boils down to how we complete at that given day. But of course, going into these Games, a lot of Indian shooting athletes have looked capable of winning medals which I think has never happened before,” he said.

Among shooters who emerged in the prerequisite, the period has been youngsters like pistol shooters Sourabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker. Bindra said that the fact that the team is young makes it difficult to predict results at Tokyo Olympic.

We have so many people contributing to the rifle and pistol events in the nationals and pre-nationals. You won’t see shotgun ranges coming up in neighborhoods and schools or 12-year-old kids suddenly wielding a shotgun just for the fun of it. The rifle and pistol actions, because it is not a firearm, the availability is much better and it is easier to set up.

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The involvement we have in the shotgun events can’t even be compared with what we have with the pistol and rifle events. He, however, rejected to get into the fix of predicting exactly who will win a medal in Tokyo later in the year.

It is an unfair question to ask. All 15 have fantastic chances to win medals. I won’t name a specific person as it will be very unfair on them and on the people that I don’t name. Bindra himself retired from the sport shortly after the 2016 Olympic and has since successfully ventured into the field of sports business. His ”Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance”, a group of sports performance and medical rehabilitation centers, recently announced a tie-up with Daivam Wellness.

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