India’s big guns aim for tickets to Rio

Some of the best Indian shooters, former World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, world record holder Heena Sidhu and the Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar will attempt to give the host a good start in the Asia Olympic qualifying competition at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad, on Wednesday.

Trap shooting expert Manavjit Singh Sandhu will be looking to impress in the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers   -  K. K. Najeeb

Some of the best Indian shooters, former World champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, world record holder Heena Sidhu and the Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar will attempt to give the host a good start in the Asia Olympic qualifying competition at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad, on Wednesday.

With 35 Olympic quota places in shooting on offer, India has understandably been eyeing many of them in the 15 events, but it remains to be seen, as to how well the shooters respond to the challenge and nail the elusive ticket to Rio.

As the former World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, who is also the Chairman of the Athletes Committee of the ISSF, observed, it is a tremendous preparation for the shooters, fighting for the Olympic quota place at home, if they achieve the primary task.

Manavjit and Vijay will go through part of the qualification process on the first day, while the fate of Heena along with that of Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Shweta Singh will be known on the opening day, in women’s air pistol.

Mountain to climb

In men’s rifle prone event, in which Gagan Narang has already won a quota, the challenge will be for the young Swapnil Kusale along with Surendra Sinh Rathod and Sushil Ghalay to win one more. A country can win only two quota places per event.

In women’s trap also, it will be a challenge for Olympian Shagun Chowdhary, Shreyasi Singh and Rajeshwari Kumari to get the solitary quota place on offer in a strong field of 31 shooters from 12 countries.

It is difficult to put a number on the quota places that India may win from this championship, which has been presented as a replacement event for the Asian Championship in Kuwait in November, before the IOC revoked the status.

As it was beautifully presented in the opening ceremony, put together by event management company Sporty Solutionz, ‘’even the sun rays do not burn unless they are brought into a focus’’. It is the intensity of focus that will fetch the passage to Rio.

It is a strong congregation and the shooters have to fight all the way, from qualification to final, to get the quota for the country.

“It is grave to think your rival is weak without the knowledge of the rival’s weakness’’, said Krishna in Mahabharata, which was quoted during the brilliant presentation of sand artist, Rahul Arya, in a vibrant opening ceremony.

In a highly individual sport, each shooter is a rival unto him/herself and has to overcome his/her own weakness.

Royal dignitaries

The Prince of Bhutan, Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, was the guest of honour and the Union Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Rao Inderjit Singh, a former national champion in skeet, declared the championship open.

The president of the ISSF, Olegario Vazquez Rana of Mexico, stressed the importance of India and Asia in the world of shooting, as he explained the circumstances that brought the event to India.

Vijay Kumar took the oath on behalf of the athletes, and the former National coach, Prof. Sunny Thomas, took the oath on behalf of the officials, as they flanked the ISSF president. A vibrant dance and music programme, depicting the rich culture of India as well as its modern approach, captivated the audience.

The president of the Nationall Rifle Association of India, Raninder Singh, instrumental in bringing the event home, welcomed the gathering that had many officials from the ISSF including the secretary general, Franz Schreiber, while secretary general, D. V. Seetharama Rao delivered the vote of thanks.