London Olympics bronze medallist in 10m air rifle, Gagan Narang, feels it has become imperative to manage the workload of the Indian shooting team after its poor show, thus far, in the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
"Our domestic and international calendar has to be sorted. There should be separate phases for competition and training. There should also be a cool-off period. Here, we don't have an off-season; we have competitions all the time. But then again, you have to participate in the selection competitions. So, you have to be at your best multiple times and then peak at the right competition as well, which may become a challenge. It will then depend on the mental makeup of the athlete and proper planning," Narang told the media in an interaction.
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The National Rifle Association of India's (NRAI) coaching staff is set to undergo a major overhaul, as was confirmed by president Raninder Singh. Narang also suggested it must find a way to be more accommodating of personal coaches.
He said, "Earlier, we used to be totally dependent on foreign coaches. Now, with a lot of ex-athletes coming back into the system, with their knowledge, we could look at a system where we can accommodate coaches, who have brought an athlete up to a particular level. We also need to think about coaches, who will take them to the next level. That way, the coach also gets Olympic exposure and that would help him groom other athletes as well. There should be a three-tier plan in place that prepares coaches for grassroots, intermediate and elite shooters. The transition will happen smoothly then."
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Narang has been the mentor of World No. 1 rifle shooter Elavenil Valarivan for a while now. The Cuddalore-born shooter had a forgettable outing as well, having failed to cross the first hurdle in both the individual and mixed team 10m air rifle events. When asked whether he had an opportunity to have a conversation with her after her competition rounds, Narang said, "We are continuously in touch for the last 2-3 days to try and understand what is going on. She said she gave her best and did what had to be done, technically.
"Even when she was thinking she was shooting a high-10 with proper triggering and follow-through, she was only ending up with a 10.3 or 10.4. And that happens usually when your body is not giving you the right kind of feedback, or you are physically or mentally not sharp enough and depleted inside. I did not probe much because there's a question about her mental health as well."
Narang believes the federation and government did everything that could possibly be done, but there is still room for further deliberation before the next Olympic cycle begins. "We have to find out what went wrong and where we can improve. I think the federation and government did what they could... There must have been gaps (in preparation) otherwise we wouldn't have fared as we did. Firstly, they were sent for a long time away from home. That may have been an issue. At the same time, you couldn't have done away with that as well due to COVID-19. Second, the coaches they trained with... There are a lot of things which can be changed for the better. A conversation needs to happen with the whole team on a one-on-one basis. After forming a committee, we may be able to decode what happened and look forward to Paris 2024."
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