Teenage shooting sensations face stiff Asian Games test

A mix of youth and experience is expected to hold India's shooting contingent in good stead as it begins its campaign at the Asian Games on Sunday.

The onus will be on the young shooters to continue their golden run at the shooting range.   -  PTI

Teenage prodigies Anish Bhanwala, Manu Bhaker and Elavenil Valarivan will carry India’s medal hopes in the shooting event of the Asian Games beginning here on Sunday.

Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala both hogged the limelight at the Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the 10m air pistol and 25m rapid fire pistol respectively.

Only Randhir Singh, Jaspal Rana, Ronjan Sodhi and Jitu Rai have been able to win the individual gold over the years, with Rana alone bagging four of the country’s seven gold medals from the Asian Games.

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Bhaker will be in action on the opening day alongside Abhishek Verma in the pistol mixed team event.

Her maturity belies her tender age as she has already tasted success at the highest level, claiming a double gold in her maiden senior World Cup in Mexico before bagging the top honours in the women’s 10m air pistol event at the ISSF Junior World Cup earlier this year.

Bhanwala, however, is yet to make a mark at the senior level after bagging a double gold at the Junior World Championships. Asian Games will be a big test for him.

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Another exceptional shooter, who has quietly gone about her business, is 19-year-old Valarivan.

She clinched a gold in the air rifle event of the Junior World Cup in Sydney after qualifying with a world junior record of 631.4 — an average of 10.5 over 60 shots.

The seasoned Sanjeev Rajput, who will aim for gold in the 50m rifle three positions after winning in Gold Coast, too has high expectations from Valarivan.

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“She has been shooting really well. Unlike in the past, the youngsters are doing really well for India. There is a sizeable pool (both in rifle and pistol) which has been doing well. It was not the case earlier,” Rajput said.

No team competition

There will be no team competition in shooting this time. Rajput himself won three team medals from 2006 to 2014 and is now determined to add an individual medal to his tally. Akhil Sheoran is the other Indian shooter in the 50m rifle three positions.

In the absence of greats such as Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang, there is a possibility of another star emerging in the rifle events.

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Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar will open India’s rifle campaign in the mixed team event at the Jakabaring Shooting Range. They have a sniff at the medal, having finished fourth at the World Cup in March.

Seasoned campaigners like Heena Sidhu (pistol), Manavjit Singh Sandhu (trap) and Shreyasi Singh (trap) too would be itching to perform.

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With a gold, silver and seven bronze, India had finished eighth in the shooting event at Incheon, South Korea four years ago.

China topped the table with 50 medals, including 27 gold, and is expected to dominate again.