A number of Indian athletes will be looking to put their best foot forward at the National Games 2022 starting on Thursday in the hopes of catapulting themselves into the media spotlight. However, not many shooters will be treating the competition as ‘top priority’.
In fact, the rifle and pistol shooters have been asked to take things easy given the Olympic quota-bearing World Championship in Cairo is knocking on the door, only nine days away from the conclusion of the rifle and pistol events in Ahmedabad on October 3. Shooters, who are a part of the Worlds lineup, will fly straight to Delhi from Gujarat for a training camp scheduled to start on October 5.
Joydeep Karmakar, chief 50m 3P rifle coach of India, says although the National Games is an event steeped in tradition, the shooters may just ‘go with the flow’.
“The National Games have got some heritage and history. Personally, I have a lot of fond memories, having taken part in five editions,” Karmakar said.
“The shooters, who are preparing for the Worlds, have a huge amount of talent and they’re already prepared. They will have that kind of restraint where they’ll just go there, shoot and not dwell on what happened too much. Because they have to then go prepare for their matches in the World Championship as it is more important for them in comparison to winning a medal at the National Games.”
To peak twice in such a short span of time might be a problem, feels Karmakar. He says, “They need to be very careful about how much energy they are putting in here. If you’re going all out for the State teams and in a week’s time, if you have your match in World Championship, I don’t think it’s a very nice thing to happen (sic).
“Not taking away any credit from the National Games, but I think because the World Championship is here, the shooters should relax and take it as a training match. They might perform very well here, but they cannot be thinking about it too much.”
Olympian Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, who is also participating in 10m air rifle besides his ‘pet’ event 50m rifle 3 positions in Gujarat 2022, doesn’t find the cluttered calendar to be a huge issue. “I don’t think it does much to increase my workload. It is good that before a big competition, I am getting a good practice session in a smaller event. It helps me get into a positive training mindset. Yeah, we do have to travel a lot in a short duration but as athletes, we are used to doing that, so not much of a problem for me. I’ll just plan on giving my best and hope for a medal,” said the 21-year-old after a brief session of warm-up at the range on Wednesday.
Divyansh Singh Panwar, part of the junior 10m air rifle team at the mega-event in Cairo, too is unperturbed. “I think I have it in me to do well despite two events being this close. The experience at NGG 2022 has been great thus far. The facilities are great.”
Mehuli Ghosh and Elavenil Valarivan, both part of the 10m air rifle team at the Worlds, had a pre-event training session at the range as well. Elavenil seemed elated to perform in front of her home crowd. “It is a big tournament but yeah, for me, it is a homely atmosphere because I started training as a shooter here in 2012-13. There have been renovations and all and things look nice.”
Mehuli, though, felt there were still a few changes which could be made ahead of the competition day. “I have been here before but obviously, it was a smaller competition back then. We had paper targets then, now we have digital ones. There were no vinyls on the floor too. However, I still feel something needs to be done about the lighting. It seems a bit off. But I am sure that will be taken care of.”
Even marksmen and markswomen, who haven’t made the World Championship team, have little to fight for in the Ahmedabad Military and Rifle Training Association. With the exception of the 15th Asian Airgun Championship in November, the season is almost over but Karmakar feels there’s always a next time.
“The others should go full throttle. Why not? A national games medal means a lot as well.”