Foreign pistol coach Pavel Smirnov to join Indian shooting team

Smirnov coached Vijay Kumar to a 25m rapid fire pistol silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, following which he was appointed as the national pistol team's foreign coach.

Coach Pavel Smirnov (L) congratulates Gauri Sheoran for winning the gold in women's sports pistol in the Kumar Surendra Singh Shooting championship in Delhi.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

The much-vaunted Indian pistol team's foreign coach Pavel Smirnov is set to join the contingent in Croatia on Friday with two other coaches, Samaresh Jung and Ronak Pandit, following him by the end of this month.

Smirnov could not accompany the national shooting squad to Croatia last Tuesday due to delay in visa processing. However, the issue has been sorted now.

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"I can say that Pavel, in all likelihood, is leaving on 21st May as his visa has been processed. The others -- Samaresh and Ronak -- are probably going there by the end of this month," National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary Rajiv Bhatia said on Wednesday.

Smirnov coached Vijay Kumar to a 25m rapid fire pistol silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, following which he was appointed as the national pistol team's foreign coach.

Coaches like Samaresh, Ronak and Jaspal Rana couldn't travel with the team for various reasons.

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Both Jung, the high-performance national pistol coach, and Rana, the junior national pistol coach, had earlier expressed their inability to accompany the team due to personal reasons.

The Olympic-bound Indian shooters are currently in Zagreb for an exposure-cum-competition tour.

They are expected to resume training after clearing their COVID-19 tests, having served a one-week hotel quarantine in the Croatian capital.

And soon, they will be leaving for Osijek to compete in the European Championships, scheduled to be held from May 20 to June 6, as a guest invitee.

After the continental event, the Indian shooters will be taking part in the ISSF World Cup (June 22 to July 3) at the same venue before flying directly to Tokyo for the Olympics.

The pistol team comprises Olympic hopefuls Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma, Yashaswini Singh Deswala and Rahi Sarnobat.

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The 19-year-old Bhaker has been selected for three events for the upcoming Olympics, scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.

Bhaker will be fielded in both the women's 25m pistol competition alongside the experienced Sarnobat, and in her pet 10m air pistol event with Yashaswini.

Bhaker will also represent India in the mixed team 10m pistol along with Chaudhary, leaving Verma and Yashaswini to form the other Indian team.

The 13 Olympic-bound Indian shooters, seven coaches, five physios and a two-member video crew landed in Zagreb in a chartered flight on Tuesday. They were received by the Croatian shooting federation and the country's world number three rifle shooter Peter Gorsa.

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