Abhinav Bindra and the ISSF Athletes Committee found a supporting voice in Anjali Mandar Bhagwat on the proposal to make three men’s 50m events into mixed gender events at Tokyo 2020.

"Abhinav is an experienced, talented shooter and he has a thorough knowledge of the sport. They want more women participation in the Olympics and that’s the reason they are removing the men’s 50m events. I support him. Women are also giving good scores in the same events. It’s an Olympic event for men and not for women. Why ? Shooters in 50m events can still look forward to medals at the Asian Games. The Centre and Standard Fire are not Olympics events, but they are medal events at the Asian Games," said Anjali, a multiple-time Commonwealth Games champion.

Gagan Narang, the 2012 London Games bronze-medallist, however expressed his reservations on the move. He said: "Prone has a lot of shooters across the world. It’s not Bindra’s decision (to make it a mixed gender event), it’s an ISSF decision. It will be very demoralising and not motivating for the prone shooters. I hope the right authorities take the right decision. I think we are a very small part of the whole ecosystem and not the decision makers. Obviously being a national record holder in the prone, I can say that the decision will not motivate anyone. This is all I can say now.’’

Gender-neutral events

In all probability though, the 50m men’s shooting events — the double trap, pistol and prone — will cease to exist as medal events in the Olympic movement.

After reviewing its recommendations made in 2015, the ISSF’s Athletes Committee recommended that the three events be replaced as mixed gender events for the Tokyo Olympics

"Shooting currently has nine men's events and six women's events on the Olympic programme, so major changes are necessary,’’ Bindra, chairman of the Athletes Committee of the ISSF, had said.

Strong opposition

After dialogues with stakeholders and putting the matter to vote among the ISSF Athletes Committee, Bindra issued a statement: "The guiding principle was to look at situation in a holistic manner which would be beneficial in long term for the shooting sport in order for us to maintain our presence in the Olympic movement. We can understand that many athletes would not be satisfied with this. In fact, none of us are and we realise that this is a very difficult scenario."

"The Athletes Committee requests that everybody should look at the bigger picture and consider the many factors that are important for us to ensure our strong presence within the Olympic movement. The IOC is now working with all international federations to achieve 50 percent female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women's participation and involvement in sport by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games by Tokyo 2020. The IOC encourages the inclusion of mixed gender team events,’’ Bindra, the Bejing Games gold medallist, said.

The Athletes Committee’s decision has not gone down well with many, including champions like Miroslav Varga who have said. The Czech had this to say on the move: "Dear Abhinav, I think you are on the bad side.”

Other notable shooters like Norway’s Harald Stenvaag, Hungary’s Sidi Peter and Romania’s junior world record holder in prone, Iordache Dragomir have expressed strong reservations about the ISSF move.

Among Indians, Jitu Rai said he was appalled by the recommendation to make it a mixed gender event. Jitu, a gold-medal winner in the 50m at Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games, competes in the 10m pistol event as well.

At the nationals held recently, there were 327 competitors in the starting list for men’s 50 m rifle prone, 218 in the women’s and 332 in the men’s 50 m pistol event.