Indian shooters have been outstanding this year would be an understatement. Having finished toppers in three senior World Cups and one junior World Cup, they have been banging on target. But that’s after discounting the shooters from the shotgun section, a category that has never been the country’s strong suit.
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While rifle and pistol shooters have been basking in glory, shattering various world records, the shotgun shooters have been a quiet bunch. In the recent Junior World Cup that was held in Suhl, Germany, Indian shooters had finished No 1 with a medal haul of 24.
None from the shotgun section could contribute to that tally. The plight of these next-generation shooters speaks volumes. Junior national coach Vikram Chopra has been trying to change the face of shotgun shooting. He conceded that the juniors have been far from best but he’s satisfied with their efforts. “Yes, the boys have not outperformed their rivals but their average return in international meets has been decent,” Chopra reasoned.
It’s not like pistol/rifle shooters’ fate has changed magically. It has been a gradual process. When the junior program was initiated five or so years ago, the Tokyo Olympic had been their target. Now, they seem to be in an ideal state ahead of the Olympic 2020 Games challenge. This is not to draw comparisons between the two. Rifle and pistol have always been India’s stronger suit. Shotgun national chief coach Mansher Singh wants to take a leaf out of their book.
“The coaching methodology and the coaches, including private ones have to be given credit. The former coaches come from the same background and understand the needs of the young shooters. We need that coaching culture,” the Olympian said.
To make matters worse, the double trap event a section where India has seen champs like Olympic silver medalist Rajya Vardhan Singh Rathore, Ronjan Sodhi, and Ankur Mittal had been dropped from the Tokyo Olympic plan. The latter, who had been making headlines not so long ago, is looking to find his feet in a trap.
Seasoned shooters like Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Mairaj Ahmad Khan have been far from their best. Manavjit, the former World No 1 trap shooter, finished a distant 66 in Acapulco World Cup.
“Rifle and pistol shooters have outdone us. Since we haven’t qualified for Tokyo Olympic so far, shotgun shooters need to pull up their socks,” Manavjit said.
Mairaj, the only Indian shooter from skeet to qualify for Olympic 2020 Games, has the best return of 11th so far. The only one who’s done something of note is Kynan Chenai. The Hyderabadi shot a high 123 in the opening World Cup in Acapulco and yet couldn’t find a spot in the finals. In the next World Cup in Al Ain, UAE, he suffered a similar fate. He shot 122 to just miss the finals by one spot.
Even the women shooters have been a helpless bunch alongside the cream of sport. Mansher admitted that shotgun needs more competition domestically. The shotgun does not have the numbers. Even in domestic meets, the participants will be visibly lesser.
We have to be sensitive to that. From a small number of shooters, we are trying to be the best. With all the odds against them, Chopra remains positive. The program (junior) that has been set up, we would like to be a four-legged chair than a two-legged chair. That stability cannot be achieved overnight. The shotgun shooters will be next seen in action in a World Cup in Lahti, Finland.