Why the laxity in securing quota places?

Proving a point…Sanjeev Rajput is ecstatic after winning the gold in the men's 50m 3-position rifle event.-PICS: SANDEEP SAXENA

Indian shooting's focus should have been on gaining as many quota places as possible for the London Olympics. With only two quota places secured so far — through Gagan Narang in air rifle and Hariom Singh in free rifle prone — there is a lot of anxiety as to whether India will be able to better its recent record of winning nine quota places for the Beijing Olympics. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

Indian shooting has tremendous potential, but it is going through a period of transition. In trying to be fair to all, and not denying opportunities to the emerging shooters, the authorities have been tweaking the selection policy with considerable zeal.

However, their priorities look misplaced for the idea should be to get the best of shooters to represent the country at all times and side-by-side keep the channels open for the emerging talent to flourish.

More than anything, the focus should have been on gaining as many quota places as possible for the London Olympics. With only two quota places secured so far — through Gagan Narang in air rifle and Hariom Singh in free rifle prone — there is a lot of anxiety as to whether India will be able to better its recent record of winning nine quota places for the Beijing Olympics.

With only four World Cups apart from the Asian Championship left for acquiring the quota places for the 2012 Games, it may be difficult for the Indian rifle and pistol shooters to grab their chances straightaway.

Chances will be restricted even for a champion shooter like Anjali Bhagwat, who recently returned to the National Championship in Delhi by winning the women's sport rifle 3-position gold apart from the ‘champion of champions' title in a mixed event.

Triumphant return…Anjali Bhagwat hugs her baby after winning the gold in the Champion of Champions event.-

With no scores to show after the Beijing Olympics — when she quit the sport and was busy nurturing her new-born baby, Aradhya — a person of the calibre of Anjali, who had revolutionised Indian shooting with remarkable performances on the global platform, will not be eligible to compete in the first two World Cups this season. Anjali has to perform well in the National Games and the selection trials thereafter to get a chance to return to the National squad. It may be late by then and she may not be able to capitalise on the limited opportunities.

Similarly, it may not be a surprise if the Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, who had won the World Championship gold in 2006, fails to get the numbers in his favour. When you look back, in the last three international competitions of significance — the World Championship, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games — there were different sets of shooters. Of course, everyone who shot in the Commonwealth Games was eligible for the Asian Games, but that did not help the team's cause, as many of the shooters who had World Championship exposure were cooling their heels back home.

The plan was slightly altered for the shotgun marksmen: their slate was wiped clean and they were asked to perform in the National Championship that was immediately followed by the two selection trials. Their strong performances like winning the World Cup finals gold, the Asian Games gold, top world rankings and achieving world record scores were rewarded additionally with merit points.

It thus boiled down to current form, and also ensured that a shooter of the calibre of Ronjan Sodhi, the double trap marksman who has had a phenomenal season, was not left out despite finishing fourth in the National Championship.

Basically, in trying to be objective in the matter of selection, the policy makers have relied too much on the statistics of the shooters that may prove counter productive.

Performing at home and performing at the highest level are two different things. Imran Hassan Khan may have overshadowed both Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang on way to winning the air rifle gold in the National Championship, but he might require a life-time to emulate the achievements of these two champion shooters.

Yet, Sanjeev Rajput, who could not make the team for the Commonwealth Games, did well to strengthen his case by winning the gold in the free rifle 3-position and prone events. There was a good sign when Om Prakash beat Omkar Singh and Amanpreet Singh for the gold in air pistol. Amanpreet did well to emerge the ‘champion of champions' in pistol that should boost his confidence.

Man of mettle…Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who won the gold in double trap and subsequently returned to the National squad after having missed the World Championship, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.-

Vijay Kumar thankfully focused on rapid fire pistol event and tamed the new format albeit with a below par qualification score of 576. However, with the qualification score becoming irrelevant after the top six make the final in a series of eliminations in which the eventual champion ends up shooting eight series, Vijay Kumar has a fine chance to come good and secure an Olympic quota place.

Jaspal Rana, the pistol prodigy who had withdrawn from shooting after winning three gold medals in the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, returned with a rapid fire pistol. He was third in qualification with 570 but was the first to be eliminated in the final. If he trains hard Jaspal can still be the best pistol shooter in the country, but like Anjali, he too may have to bide his time for a berth in the National squad.

Samaresh Jung was able to win the gold medals in standard and centre-fire pistol events, but it has to be remembered that he had qualified for the Beijing Olympics and competed in the air pistol and free pistol events. Gurpal Singh outplayed a strong field to finish ahead of Om Prakash and Omkar Singh for the gold in free pistol.

Similarly, Suma Shirur, the world record holder and former Asian champion, was able to recapture her good form and pin the air rifle gold with a qualification score of 398. Pooja Ghatkar shot the best final to assert her class and was rewarded with a silver medal.

Raj Kumari Rathore won the gold in rifle prone event ahead of Meena Kumari and world champion Tejaswini Sawant. This should trigger a healthy competition between the three in future. In fact, Tejaswini had to be content with two bronze medals as Lajja Gauswami won the 3-position silver behind Anjali Bhagwat.

It was a healthy return to form for Harveen Srao who has the National record in air pistol at 389. She beat World Cup silver medallist Heena Sidhu for the gold. Anisa Sayyed won the sport pistol gold but she would have to shoot a couple of notches higher to fancy her chances of winning an Olympic quota place.

In shot gun, the main story was Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore winning the gold in double trap and subsequently returning to the National squad after having missed the World Championship, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. His hunger rekindled, Rathore channelled his energy in a nice way to dethrone champion Vikram Bhatnagar with the last shot.

Suma Shirur struck form to win the air rifle gold.-

The young Kynan Chenai also did very well to get into the reckoning for trap team by finishing second behind world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu. Mairaj Ahmad Khan won the skeet gold with a lot of determination, but the Indian skeet shooters may have to reach a different level to make a mark on the world stage.

To that extent the women skeet shooters, Arti Singh and Saniya Shaikh, have a better chance if they get suitable guidance and quality training. The young Saniya beat the seasoned Arti for the gold, but there was no depth in the event as only four competed in the National Championship.

Seema Tomar, who had won the silver medal in the World Cup last year, continued to assert herself in trap while Shreyasi Singh did well to win the gold in double trap which is not an Olympic event for women any more.

The biggest disappointment of the championship, which was conducted in unhygienic conditions with nobody bothering to clean the place of tons of dust and pigeon droppings for a full fortnight, was Asher Noria. The World junior champion and World junior record holder fared below par in double trap in which he had secured team medals in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. He missed the trials thereafter and was ruled out of the National squad.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how the Indian shooters fare in their pursuit of the Olympic quota places.


Men — Air rifle: 1. Imran Hassan Khan 696.8 (596), 2. Gagan Narang 695.5 (10.3) 594, 3. Satyendra Singh 695.5 (9.3) 594.

Free rifle 3-position: 1. Sanjeev Rajput 1261.1 (1162), 2. Imran Hassan Khan 1258.3 (1154), 3. Gagan Narang 1250.1 (1152).

Free rifle prone: 1. Sanjeev Rajput 696.2 (593), 2. Surendra Rathod 694.6 (592), 3. Satyendra Singh 694.5 (592).

Air pistol: 1. Om Prakash 683.8 (583), 2. Omkar Singh 679.1 (580), 3. Amanpreet Singh 677.7 (578).

Free pistol: 1. Gurpal Singh 648.1 (556), 2. Om Prakash 645.7 (549), 3. Omkar Singh 643.6 (552).

Rapid fire pistol: 1. Vijay Kumar 32 (576), 2. Gurpreet Singh 26 (568), 3. Pemba Tamang 20 (571).

Standard pistol: 1. Samaresh Jung 569, 2. Vijay Kumar 566, 3. Harpreet Singh 562.

Centre fire pistol: 1. Samaresh Jung 585 (50), 2. Pemba Tamang 585 (45), 3. Pushpender Singh 582.

Trap: 1. Manavjit Singh Sandhu 142 (121), 2. Kynan Chenai 139 (118), 3. Anwer Sultan 137 (117).

Double trap: 1. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore 180 (138), 2. Vikram Bhatnagar 179 (138), 3. Mohammed Ashab 177 (138).

Skeet: 1. Mairaj Ahmad Khan 142 (8) 118, 2. Man Singh 142 (7) 119, 3. Smit Singh 139 (116).

Women — Air rifle: 1. Suma Shirur 499.8 (398), 2. Pooja Ghatkar 497.7 (394), 3. Ayonika Paul 495.9 (394).

Rifle 3-position: 1. Anjali Bhagwat 675.7 (576); 2. Lajja Gauswami 673.1 (576), 3. Tejaswini Sawant 670.4 (573).

Rifle prone: 1. Raj Kumari Rathore 592, 2. Meena Kumari 591, 3. Tejaswini Sawant 589.

Air pistol: 1. Harveen Srao 481.3 (382), 2. Heena Sidhu 477.7 (378), 3. Nausheen Fatima 476.0 (378).

Sport pistol: 1. Anisa Sayyed 777.1 (575), 2. Rahi Sarnobat 772.1 (571), 3. Sushma Singh 767.2 (569).

Trap: 1. Seema Tomar 89 (68), 2. Shagun Chaudhary 85 (65), 3. Snehlata Singh 79 (62).

Double trap: 1. Shreyasi Singh 90, 2. Seema Tomar 73, 3. Varsha Tomar 73.

Skeet: 1. Saniya Shaikh 66, 2. Arti Singh 61, 3. Bhawna Kumari 58.