Hearing-impaired junior rifle shooter Dhanush Srikanth’s disqualification, which deprived him of a sure-shot team gold medal, at the recent Asian Championships in Chagwon, Korea has left the entire family “distraught” and “shocked”.
The 21-year-old marksman, who had undergone two cochlear implants, was looking forward to bringing home a medal from the continental championships in his last appearance in the junior category.
Unfortunately, an issue with his apparel’s stiffness led to his disqualification from the 10m air rifle competition, and with it, his hopes of winning the team gold and possibly an individual medal went up in smoke.
“At the end of the day, he lost his medal, and he missed out on playing the finals, which is a big loss for him. This was actually his last junior match. He was prepared and wanted to come back with a medal,” Dhanush’s mother Asha Srikanth told PTI from Hyderabad.
“He was very much prepared and confident. He kept saying before leaving ‘Mamma (mother) I will come back with a medal’. This (disqualification) was shocking and disturbing. He was very upset, we could only support him by saying it’s all part of the game. But he kept saying, ‘mamma I was not able to play. I was just disqualified’,” she said of her son’s determination.
Dhanush, who won the Deaflympics gold medal at Caxias do Sul in Brazil last year, did not initially understand why he was disqualified.
The young marksman was disqualified because the trousers that he was wearing in the competition had a stiffness of 2.9, while the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) rules stipulate it should not be less than 3.0.
In shooting events, like 10m air rifle and 50m rifle 3-positions events, it is mandatory to wear stiff jackets and trousers as precision can only be achieved if the body movement is minimal. This can be achieved by wearing stiff kits, which give stability to the body while shooting.
An electronic stiffness-measuring gauge is used in district, state, national and international competitions by the equipment control section.
The Indian team, comprising Umamahesh Maddineni, Dhanush and Abhinav Shaw, had shot 628.5, 627.9 and 625.6 to aggregate 1882, which would have earned them the team gold with an Asian junior record, but the marksman’s disqualification meant India was deprived of a medal.
All three Indian marksmen also made it to the eight-shooter finals, but Dhanush was disqualified and his qualification scores were scrapped by the jury at the range following a random post-qualification check.
Dhanush’s score of 627.9 in qualification placed him third, going into the eight-shooter finals but his disqualification meant he was replaced by country-mate Pratham Badhana, who had earlier finished ninth in the qualifying round.
“The Changwon competition was so important for him because he had started his journey into shooting sport by winning three medals at the Asian Championships in Doha in 2018, and he wanted to culminate that journey on a winning note in the Korean city. Unfortunately, it did not go that way, and the entire family is distraught,” said Asha.
On whether a coach or someone was with him when he was taken for a random inspection by the ISSF jury, Asha said, “Even I have no idea. I am also waiting for the coaches to return and give feedback.
“Just before the match, I think the weapons test, jacket, trouser test everything was clear, that’s what my son told me ‘Mamma everything was clear, no issues’. Then, we were also surprised (to hear the news of disqualification).
“I said how come...when they (jury) came for a random checkup especially if the kids with such a problem, there has to be a coach around to help him around. I don’t know if that has happened or not,” added Asha.
She said she was waiting for her son to come back home so that she could know whether there was somebody with him when the inspection took place.
“He is a cochlear implant child, had two surgeries at the age of one year and then at nine. He can’t speak, he just speaks a few words, and most of it (explanation) is through actions.
“He hears through his machine, otherwise he manages, but when such issues arise, he needs someone,” said Asha of her son, winner of the World Championships junior team gold in 2021.
NRAI secretary Rajiv Bhatia said the federation has sought an explanation from the Asian Shooting Confederation (ASC).
“For us (NRAI), its (disqualification) not such a big issue. It can happen to anyone.” Asked if someone was with Dhanush when the random check took place, Bhatia said, “It’s not possible that someone wasn’t with him at that time. Still, I will speak to the coaches. The jacket’s stiffness can change with moisture or air-conditioning.” Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Pushpender Garg told PTI, “We will ask the federation (how this has happened). I will ask the federation for a reply.” Dhanush is funded by TOPS
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