Shooting: Indian women to fire first

Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul will launch India's campaign at the Deodoro Range, a military base of host Brazil.

Apurvi Chandela, fully focussed.   -  Getty Images

Women first. That's what it will be for India on Saturday, when Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul open the nation's campaign in shooting in the Olympics at the Deodoro Range, a military base of host Brazil.

Actually, the 10-metre women’s air rifle traditionally offers the first medals in the Olympics, and the final is scheduled at 10.30 a.m.

Even as the slogan for equality for women gets strengthened every day in every sphere, especially in sports, the men are demanding equal results from the women!

Both Apurvi and Ayonika have done very well in building their young shooting career and are poised to give their best.

Apurvi, a World Cup Final silver medallist and one of the four Indian shooters to win a gold in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, has been trained by seasoned coach Stanislas Lapidus. In comparison, Ayonika has benefited from the expertise of the Olympic finalist and World record holder Suma Shirur. The women speak less and are focused on the execution.

In the afternoon on Saturday, it will be Jitu Rai and Gurpreet Singh in air pistol. Jitu Rai is a man with the golden arm, and has always insisted that he is aiming for the gold in the Olympics. His accomplishments in the last three years are more convincing than his words. World Championship silver medallist, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion, and a clutch of medals including gold in the World Cups.

Yet, it has to be admitted that Jitu is stronger in the 50-metre free pistol event, in which he will shoot on August 10, in the morning.

Gurpreet Singh is an expert in the rapid fire pistol event, in which Vijay Kumar raced to the silver last time. But, the fact remains that Gurpreet won his Olympic quota in air pistol. It's time for him to assert his versatility in two contrasting events of speed.

In fact, the 12 Indian shooters give themselves 18 chances to win medals. After the silver by Rajyavardhan Rathore in 2004, gold by Abhinav Bindra in 2008, silver by Vijay Kumar and bronze by Gagan Narang in London in the last edition, there is a lot more faith on the Indian shooters to deliver on the big stage. The competition will be intense, but the Indian shooters are familiar with such an environment.

After the opening day’s action, Heena Sidhu, the world record holder in women’s air pistol will be in action on Sunday, even as the trap shooters, former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai go through the first part of the qualification stage.

With Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang set to train their sights on the medals on Monday in men’s air rifle, there is a lot of action on hand straightaway.

Shooting will continue till August 14, ending with the rigorous men’s rifle 3-position event, in which 120 shots are fired in qualification and 45 in the final. Gagan Narang has taken up the responsibility of shooting in three events and has more chances than anyone else from the country to strike a medal!

The traditional powerhouses like China, U. S. and a whole lot of other countries are there as 390 shooters fight for 45 medals.

Among the stars Vincent Hancock (skeet) of the US, Jin Jongoh (free pistol) of Korea and Guo Wenjun (women’s air pistol) of China will attempt to join Ralf Schumann (rapid fire pistol) of Germany in winning three gold medals in the same event.