Shooting World Cup: Indians look for glory at home

The shooters will have pre-event training on Thursday, to prepare for the air rifle men’s and women’s events, apart from women’s trap. The men’s trap and rapid fire pistol will also be starting on Friday, with the finals scheduled for Saturday.

It will be a fresh start from zero with new rules and new events for India, as it hosts the first shooting World Cup of the season at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad, here.

The start will be from scratch for the host as it had a rare experience of not winning a medal in the Olympics in Rio, for the first time in four editions. After the silver by Rajyavardhan Rathore in Athens in 2004, gold by Abhinav Bindra in Beijing in 2008 and two medals, a silver by Vijay Kumar and a bronze by Gagan Narang in London in 2012, the expectations were high on the dozen Indian shooters who made it to Brazil.

Of course, Jitu Rai had wiped the disappointment partially by winning the free pistol silver in the World Cup Final in Bologna, where he also emerged the Champion of Champions in pistol.

Jitu, who finished eighth in air pistol and 12th in free pistol in the Olympics, had also accounted for two of the four World Cup medals won by India last year. He had won the free pistol gold and air pistol silver. Two other silver medals had been won by Mairaj Ahmad Khan in skeet and rifle 3-position by Sanjeev Rajput who incidentally won the Olympic quota but could not gain selection for Rio.

With the 50-metre free pistol event all set to go out of the Olympic programme, Jitu, with Asian Games gold and World Championship silver in his collection, may have to bank heavily on the 10-metre air pistol to deliver the elusive Olympic medal in Tokyo. He, however, gets a chance to shoot in the mixed doubles event, which will be put to test in the World Cup here.

The shooters will have pre-event training on Thursday, to prepare for the air rifle men’s and women’s events, apart from women’s trap. The men’s trap and rapid fire pistol will also be starting on Friday, with the finals scheduled for Saturday.

Like in the Olympics when Sakshi Malik in wrestling and P.V. Sindhu in badminton saved the blushes for India with the only bronze and silver medals in Rio, it could be the women calling the shots at least for a start.

The World University champion Vinita Bhardwaj, former Asian champion Pooja Ghatkar and Meghana Sajjanar, who dominated the Intershoot international competition recently in the Netherlands with four gold medals, could give a strong start for India in women’s air rifle.

The men’s team of Ravi Kumar, Deepk Kumar and Satyendra Singh looks relatively unknown, in comparison, though they are all capable shooters who may not have established their names like Gagan Narang or Abhinav Bindra.

Meanwhile, the finals will henceforth be elaborate affairs and the ISSF has done away with the semifinals and retained the progressive elimination format.

The 10-metre and 50-metre events will have five shots each at the start, instead of three. The gold and silver medallists will be shooting 24 shots in all instead of 20. The rifle 3-position event will not see any change.

The women’s 25-metre sports pistol will be like the men’s rapid fire pistol, with the elimination starting after four series of five shots. The shotgun events could be really taxing for both the shooters and the spectators.

The trap final will decide the gold after 50 shots, in the progressive elimination format, with the first elimination happening at 25. In double trap, the elimination will start after 15 doubles, and the gold will be decided after 40 doubles, which is 80 birds!

In skeet, the elimination will start at 20 and the gold will be decided after 60 birds. Most of the best will be seen in action, at least in the MQS section. It will be a challenge for the Indian shooters to capitalise on the event at home, even though the challenge will be stiff from 49 other countries, so that they have a good start in their bid to make the season ending competition, featuring the top-10 shooters in each event in the World Cup Finals to be staged at the same venue in October.

For a change, the focus will be on the new faces who are keen to establish themselves in Indian shooting, and gun for glory in Tokyo!