The meteoric rise of Indian shooters on the world stage can only be matched by their catastrophic collapse at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The magnitude of their downfall at the Games has been such that one shudders at the thought of the future of the sport in the new season and, more importantly, in Paris 2024 where expectations will once again soar and the shooters will have to bring home a bag full of medals.
The new season brings new aspirations and it is hoped that those who govern sport in the country would have learned a lesson from the debacles of the Rio 2016 Olympics and Tokyo 2020 five years later.
India sent its largest contingent, comprising 15 shooters, to Tokyo and while the eyes followed the shooters steadily, their performance left the country stunned. With half a dozen medals expected from the pits, the team sadly returned empty-handed, albeit with an oversized baggage of controversy.
All this after the snipers had the best opportunities to train and compete abroad, as well as a two-month stay in Croatia to hone their skills ahead of the Quadrennial Games. Direct flights were arranged to bring them to Tokyo and expectations soared when footage of them training in earnest at the site was relayed from the Japanese capital.
It looked like the Indian shooters were serious, with a motley group that included young pistol shooters, such as Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker, exuding the confidence of seasoned pros. But one after another they started to succumb to the pressure and controversies began to mount as only a few days ago camaraderie and buoyancy reigned.
The national sport governing body quickly promised several far-reaching changes, including a complete overhaul of the coaching structure, but even as days have turned into months, no laudable initiative appears to have come forward.
It is in this context that the shooters will begin preparations for a very busy year 2022, which will be marked by World Cups, Grand Prix and especially the Asian Games in Hangzhou (China) and the World Shotgun Championships (Osijek, Croatia) and Rifle. / Pistol (Cairo, Egypt).
While the action begins immediately at the start of the year, the most crucial time will be September-October 2022 when the Asian Games and World Championships are scheduled.
Indian shooters may have pocketed a bucket of medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, but with the mainland centerpiece taking place this time around in China, no one can guess how hard it would be to win medals there.
The Asian Games will be followed by two World Championships – Shotgun (September 27-October 10) and rifle / pistol (October 12-25) – which will be the qualifying events for Paris 2024. With the Fédération Internationale de Tir Sportif ( ISSF) considering removing qualification through the World Cup, the Indians will really have to step up their game to qualify for Paris.
The ISSF recently issued a circular on quota places for Paris, stating: “The holders of four quota places will be determined in each of the individual events included in the Olympic program at the 2022 World Shotgun Championship in Osijek, Australia. Croatia, and at the 2022 World Championship. Rifle / pistol championship in Cairo, Egypt. The same number of quota places will be allocated in each individual Olympic event at the 53rd World Championship in 2023, which will take place in the Russian Federation.
The new qualification standards leave no room for complacency as Indians will have to rub shoulders with the best in the industry to achieve Olympic rank, where they previously had the advantage of participating in several World Cups held several times a year to qualify. for the quadrennial centerpiece.
Also, the main weakness that was noticed among Indian shooters at Tokyo 2020 was the lack of mental toughness for a stage like the Olympics. Somewhere down the line, the national sports governing body hasn’t paid enough attention to the mental aspect of the game, which many blame for Tokyo 2020’s dismal performance in pressure cooker situations.
While Tokyo’s scars will take time to heal, the lessons learned are invaluable – those that may herald a new era in Indian shooting. It’s time to take stock and fix the broken image.
Highlights in 2022:
February: World Cup (Shotgun) Morocco; World Cup (rifle / pistol) Cairo.
March: World Cup (Shotgun) Cyprus; World Cup (shotgun) Peru.
April: World Cup (rifle / pistol) Brazil; World Cup (shotgun) Italy.
May: World Cup (rifle / pistol / shotgun) Azerbaijan.
July: World Cup (rifle / pistol / shotgun) Korea.
September: Asian Games, Hangzhou (China); World Championship (Croatia).
October: World Championship (rifle / pistol) Egypt.
November: Asian Air Gun Championship (Korea).
km / dpb
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