Lazlo Szucsak: Former shooters have a hand in India's recent upsurge

India’s former rifle coach Lazlo Szucsak feels the likes of Gagan Narang and Suma Shirur, by taking to coaching, are playing an influential role in shooting’s recent upsurge.

Anjali Bhagwat and Gagan Narang during the Sportstar Aces Awards ceremony in Mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre

India’s former rifle coach Lazlo Szucsak feels the likes of Gagan Narang and Suma Shirur, by taking to mentoring and coaching, are playing an influential role in shooting’s recent upsurge.

The well-travelled Hungarian had two stints as India’s coach, first from 1998 to 2000, followed by an even more successful tenure from 2005 to 2009, when Abhinav Bindra won a historic Olympic medal and triumphed in the world championship.

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That was also the time when Narang was winning a lot on the world stage, culminating with a bronze at the London Olympics.

From his time, he feels things have changed for better in India.

“During my time also, we had some excellent shooters like Anjali Bhagwat, nobody is as talented as her. Suma Shirur, Deepali Deshpande, Anuja Jung, Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang were there,” he said.

“The good point for India is that the athletes of that time have come back to coaching. They know how to do it and they have international experience, there are many good coaches like Suma, Kuheli Ganguli, Manoj Kumar and many more and they must be appreciated,” Lazlo told PTI.

Rio an aberration

He preferred to not read much into the medal-less campaign at the 2016 Rio Olympics, looking at it more as an aberration.

“Indian shooting is at its best, now there is a wider pool of talent. Because of the huge number of talents, the contest is very tough, and the best competitors are coming up. It’s a very good situation for them.

“I am sure of Olympic medals in future, Rio is one thing. They are good shooters and surely they are going to do well in Tokyo.”

He also left a lasting impression in Iran, the challenge he took on after India, and where he managed despite an international embargo on ammunition, often relying on dry firing (shadow practice by shooters without bullets).

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“Coaching-wise Iran was a very good experience because they are very disciplined people. The main problem was that Iran was heavily embargoed and there was hardly any ammunition. For weeks, months they would just do dry firing, without bullets.

“Still they did their best. Dry firing is effective training only when you are doing it seriously and doing it by heart. Iran mainly relied on dry firing because they get bullets from foreign countries like India or Hungary.

“They continue to face the same problem because of which they missed a lot of training camps and tournaments. Definitely, athletes are suffering.”

Having nurtured several top shooters including Narang and Anjali Bhagwat, Lazlo was asked if he harbours ambition of a third stint in India, but he said he is in mood to leave Hungary despite getting “quite a few offers” from other countries.

Like father, his son Mathias has also taken the plunge into coaching, and runs a small shooting club back home.

“He is coaching the Japan team. He was a teacher in high school and a coach for six-seven years. Now he has national level shooters in his club and they are going for a European championship next month.”

Asked to compare Hungarian shooting with that of India, he said the scene is different.

“Hungarian shooting is absolutely different, we have a small pool. We don’t have so much money to support shooters like in India,” Lazlo said.

“We have to sparingly use the limited resources. But even with a small base, Hungary can also produce very talented shooters.”

Proof of which are the gold won by Istvan Peni and Veronica Major at the ongoing ISSF World Cup.