Raninder happy to improve credibility of shooting

Raninder Singh is happy to have established himself as an excellent shooter yet again, with the second successive silver in trap in the ongoing National shotgun championship here.

Raninder Singh, the NRAI president, who lost the trap gold by onepoint to former World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu, in the nationalchampionship.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Raninder Singh is happy to have established himself as an excellent shooter yet again, with the second successive silver in trap in the ongoing National shotgun championship here.

When he took over as the president of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) in 2010, there was not much credence given to Raninder’s ability as a shooter. The fact that he was the former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s son, tended to tilt his credentials to being a politician.

To be winning the silver medal, and stand on the podium along with the two shooters who had competed in the Rio Olympics, Manavjit Sandhu and Kynan Chenai, is a "very satisfying" experience for him. It was a strong field of 184 shooters in the men’s event and the competition lasted three days. Raninder had to really fight his way into the knock-out phase of six shooters, after a third round of 20.

"Unlike last time when I qualified with a high score, I had to really fight all the way up, this time. That made me more determined," said Raninder, who shot a perfect round of 25 in the fifth and last round. It was not enough, he had to win the shoot-off against Prithviraj Tondaiman, a member of the national squad who had shot 121 out of 125 in the qualification phase of the recent Asian shotgun championship in Abu Dhabi.

"When I am competing, I don’t consider myself as NRAI president. I compete hard. There is a natural pride of a shooter. I just tried my best, and stayed focused on the target," recalled Raninder, who beat shooters half his age with a rare touch of assurance.

Even though he does not want to highlight the minimum training that he has had from the silver in the last national to this time, there was no doubt that Raninder hardly had any training except for two days at home in Patiala, to fine tune himself for the national championship.

As a good sport and the head of the shooting family, Raninder does not want to mock at the inability of the shooters who have the advantages of expert coaching and international exposure. "I have the advantage, as I am not competing to make the national team. Shooting is not my career. I am competing against myself. Secondly, when I shoot, I feel that I am superior to all of them. I have been shooting from a very young age and it is natural for me to be sharp with a bit of fine tuning," said Raninder.

Apart from fighting for his sport with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Union Sports Ministry, to get the best coaches and ensure enough international exposure and training for the shooters, especially after drawing a blank in the Rio Olympics, Raninder felt that he had done a "service to my sport" by improving the credibility.

On a different note, Raninder said that the international federation would not let the new rules, that are likely to emphasise a lot on "endurance" of the shooters with long finals, to be applied before January 1. "We discussed the possibility of using the new rules in the national championship. But the ISSF was very clear that it has to be applied only from January.

"In any case, the changes are mostly in the finals. Our selection does not place so much emphasis on finals." reasoned Raninder, about the scores in the national championship, with old rules, being the main source for national selection.

Stating that it was a tough exercise to convince the authorities about the foreign coaches for the national team, particularly after the "Abhinav Bindra committee Olympic review report", Raninder was confident that the best coaches would serve Indian shooting till the Tokyo Olympics.

He may not like reading this observation, but it is a telling statement. Raninder Singh may fail as a politician, but he will not fail as a sportsman, taking Indian shooting forward.