Prolific shooters make India frontrunner for medals at Youth Olympics

Alongside Mexico and Germany, India has four shooters, one each in men's and women's air pistol and air rifle.

Manu Bhaker won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games this year and is a favourite to win gold medal in the air pistol event at Youth Olympics.   -  PTI

It will be a great opportunity for the world-beating young Indian shooters to take one more big step on the world stage in the Youth Olympics to be staged in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from October 6 to 18.

Interestingly, India is one of the few teams that has both quality and the numbers to make an impact in the third Youth Olympics.

Along with Mexico and Germany, India is the only team to have four shooters, one each in men’s and women’s air pistol and air rifle. There are only six events including the mixed air rifle and air pistol, and India will have the chance to win a medal in each one of them.

There are only 80 shooters in all, 20 in each category, who came through, meeting stringent qualification norms. There will be 58 countries in all in shooting.

Some of the strong shooting nations like China and Russia will have only three shooters each along with Australia.

Read: NRAI issues new circular ahead of national selection trials

More than the numbers, India has high-quality shooters who have proven themselves repeatedly at the international level this season.

In Manu Bhaker, who won the Commonwealth Games gold, won World Cup gold among juniors twice and women, apart from a world class performance in the Asian Games, India has a pistol ace who is second to none.

With such rich experience at such a tender age of 16, and with sound guidance from some one of the calibre of Jaspal Rana, Manu is capable of striking any medal.

In Saurabh Chaudhary, who won the Asian Games gold with a touch of nonchalance ahead of the World Champion Tomoyuki Matsuda of Japan, India has another shooter who does not distinguish between a training session and a world-class competition. He was unlucky not to be
fielded among the men in the World Championship, which would have helped him have a shot at the Olympic quota, but he won the junior gold in the World Championship with a world record.

After they go through the individual events, Manu and Saurabh can combine for the mixed event to achieve something special. The schedule says mixed international team, which may hint at different countries making the pairs, depending on the performance in the individual
events.

Indian shooting was pretty pleased with Yashaswini Deswal making the junior women’s final in air pistol in the last Youth Olympics. The current bunch has the potential to considerably improve on that record.

The air rifle section may not be that strong in comparison, but Mehuli Ghosh who lost the gold in the Commonwealth Games in the shoot-off, and was part of the silver winning team in the World Championship, has the ability to touch the big scores, both in qualification and final.
She had won the Asian Championship youth gold last year and the World Cup junior bronze this year to give a hint about her efficiency.

In such company, Shahu Tushar Mane, who only has an Asian Championship youth bronze against his name, may be inspired to come up with his best.

Overall, the Indian contingent will look up to the shooters to provide the fireworks in the Youth Olympics.