Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Indian shooters aim big for London Games

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New Delhi: Indian guns are booming loud and clear and the wagers are already on in the shooting circles on the number of medals India is going to win at the 2012 Olympics.

The cause for the excitement is that seven shooters have booked their ticket for the London Games and more are on course to be there at the ranges at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London.

With a dozen marksmen expected to make it to London, it is going to be a record Indian line-up at the Olympics — a testimony to the shooting boom in the country, triggered by Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver at the Athens Olympics seven years ago followed by the country’s first-ever Olympic gold Abhinav Bindra won in Beijing in 2008.

National coach Sunny Thomas knows it is a tough task for the shooters, but he is confident they are ready for Olympic challenge.

The London rush began with rifle shooters, world-record holder Gagan Narang and Hari Om Singh, booking their berths at the World Championships in Germany last year. Another rifleman, Sanjeev Rajput, and shot-gun exponent Ronjan Singh Sodhi followed suit by winning gold and silver in the South Korea and Beijing World Cups this year.

Next is the turn of pistol shooters, Vijay Kumar, Annu Raj Singh and Rahi Sarnobat. They grabbed three quota places in last month’s World Cup at Fort Benning, the US Army Post in Atlanta.

The government was also quick to acknowledge the shooters’ potential by earmarking Rs 43 crore for their Olympic training.

With at least eight more qualifying events lined up in the next seven months and some top marksmen like Abhinav Bindra, Rathore, Samresh Jung, Anjali Bhagwat and Tejaswini Sawant in the queue India can expect to get another five-six quota slots.

Indian shooters will also stand to benefit with the arrival of famed Russian pistol coach Alexander Melentiev, whose world record of 581 in the 1980 Moscow Olympics is still untouched.

Melentiev, who was with the US team before coming to India, was offered a short-term role before the Commonwealth Games, but he refused as he wanted a longer tenure. The Russian finally agreed to take up the assignment when the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) approached him during last month’s World Cup in the US.

Sodhi, who was the lone gold-winning shooter at the Guangzhou Asian Games, said: “I have been shooting consistently and I hope to maintain it.”

Sodhi seems to have put behind the heart break of missing the Bejing Games, despite setting two world records en route his gold-winning performance in the 2008 Belgrade World Cup final. (IANS)

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