The Indian team will be hoping for an encore of its table-topping feat in February’s Cairo World Cup when it takes to the lanes at the Madhya Pradesh State Shooting Academy on Wednesday. The avant-garde range in Barkheda, a township spread over 3.44 square kilometre in Bhopal, will throw open its gates for India’s first-ever indoor ISSF World Cup for rifle and pistol disciplines.
The return of People’s Republic of China
Despite the obvious home advantage, Team India will have its task cut out. For powerhouse China, which swept almost a quarter of the medals on offer at the Tokyo Olympics – 11 of 45 – returns to action in a World Cup for the first time in 2023. Not just that, the Chinese shooting body has decided to field the joint-largest contingent of 37 shooters alongside the host.
A bit more number-crunching elucidates the enormity of the situation. In its last major international competition, the World Championship in 2022, the Chinese team racked up 58 medals, 24 more than second-placed India, taking home eight Olympic quotas from the tournament. It is presently the only nation to have at least one Paris 2024 quota place in every rifle/pistol event. India, then, could manage only two.
With no Paris 2024 tickets available in this competition, the Chinese federation has strategically passed the baton to its up-and-coming young guns – seven in the squad are 2005-born or younger. India has only three shooters in the aforementioned age bracket.
Backing young talent
As the experienced Yukun Liu, Zhiming Lu, and Yan Chen miss out besides 22-year-old Wanru Miao, each of them having already accounted for one quota for the Chinese NOC (National Olympic Committee), the team will now be hoping to get its youngsters in the groove before August’s World Championship in Baku.
Notably, a combined total of six Olympic medallists and as many reigning world champions, will headline the field of 198 shooters from 30 countries when the medal events get underway on March 22. A total of 10 finals - all of them Olympic events - are scheduled until March 26.
On the very first day, China’s Liu Jinyao and Lu Kaiman, the reigning men’s and women’s world champions in 10m air pistol, start.
Stars to watch out for
Rapid fire pistol great Jean Quiquampoix, the only reigning Olympic gold medallist on the entry list, will be leading a five-member-strong French unit, which also stars the gifted Clement Bessaguet.
Alison Marie Weisz (USA), current World No. 1 in women’s air rifle, Rio Olympics champion Christian Reitz (Germany) and silver medallist-cum-compatriot Monika Karsch are some of the other names, who might just make life a bit more difficult for Indian shooters.
Also, expect a few surprises from PRC’s Du Linshu, 19, who won five golds at the Cairo Worlds, and Huang Yuting, 16, who already happens to be a senior world champion.
Interestingly, Iran withdrew all of its 10 entries – which had the likes of Tokyo 2020 winner Javad Foroughi and double bronze medallist at 2022 Worlds, Haniyeh Rostamiyan – citing personal reasons at the very last moment.
Dignitaries to be present at Opening Ceremony
The MPSS Academy, now equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and a new final range, has the pre-event training scheduled for March 21. The session will conclude with an Opening Ceremony at the Minto Hall Convention Centre that will have the Hon’ble Chief Minister of MP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sports Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia, ISSF’s newly-elected president Luciano Rossi and NRAI supremo Raninder Singh in attendance.