Deepali Deshpande strikes a cautious note

The question remains whether Anjum Moudgil will be able to retain her berth in air rifle or will the selectors instead opt for Tejaswini Sawant, come 2021.

Talent aplenty: Coaches Deepali Deshpande, centre, and Oleg Mikhailov will have to keep an eye on future tournaments when they sit down to decide between Anjum Moudgil, left, and Tejaswini Sawant.

Talent aplenty: Coaches Deepali Deshpande, centre, and Oleg Mikhailov will have to keep an eye on future tournaments when they sit down to decide between Anjum Moudgil, left, and Tejaswini Sawant.   -  Special Arrangement

India’s problem of plenty in the rifle and pistol events is likely to give selectors a headache when they sit down to pick teams for the postponed Olympics.

One primary question is whether World Championship silver medallist Anjum Moudgil will be able to retain her berth in air rifle or will the selectors instead opt for former World Champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Tejaswini Sawant.

“You try to give your best every time. You cannot think, ‘this is not my strong event. Let me wait and get it in my event’,” was Anjum’s counter to the question.

Irony

Anjum has shot a world record 1180 out of 1200 in the 50m rifle 3-position event, but the irony is that she could not compete in the regular team in any of the World Cups, as the team was searching for an Olympic quota which she was ineligible to win, and gave chance to others.

After Sunidhi Chauhan, Gaayathri Nithyanandam and Kajal Saini failed, it was Tejaswini who nailed the Olympic quota in the 3P event. Will she then get a chance to shoot at the Olympics?

Perspective

Olympian Deepali Deshpande, the Indian team’s high performance rifle coach, put things in perspective. “Anjum is experienced and in good form. Postponement is an advantage for her. In air rifle, 2019 was all about changing technique, equipment and getting over injury. Still she could maintain her ranking,” said Deepali.

“In fact, last year was her best for air rifle. She shot some of her personal best scores and had two finals in World Cups,” she added.

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With Apurvi Chandela winning two World Cup gold medals — with world records to boot — it has generally been perceived that World No. 1 Elavenil Valarivan and Mehuli Ghosh, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, could fight for the second spot in women’s air rifle.

Two planes

“The national federation and the selection committee will be thinking a lot on these aspects. I feel that we have to be very careful as we will be working on two planes. One is 2020 Olympics being held in 2021, and the other is 2024. Some of the shooters will be front runners for 2024. If we drag them into this selection, we may lose them even for 2024,” cautioned Deepali.

“Tejaswini has three scores of 1170 or more. With Olympic quota points she is second to Anjum only,” said Deepali, as she asserted that a combination of experience and good performances had a better chance of coming good on the big stage.