A third hopeless day in office at the Aoti Shooting Range was enough to send national coach, Sunny Thomas, in a tizzy.
Launching a scathing attack on the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), of which he is the vice-president, Thomas said, "Wrong selection policies are the reason for India's dismal performance here. Someone does well in the trials and he is immediately included in the squad, little realising that he cannot take the pressures of an international competition. In a team event, the first two shooters are mostly seasoned, but the third, who comes into the squad on the basis of better scores in trials, cannot handle pressure and succumbs, thus pulling the team down."
Reminded that he was part of the system that selected the team, the Dronacharya awardee said, "Unfortunately, the final decision rests with the top officials."
Citing the example of China, he said, "They select the top-eight shooters in every category and do not alter the composition for a year. Only the chief coach decides who has to be in the squad. In India, I will dig my grave if I select the team or drop someone if he has come into the team through the trials."
On the poor performance of the marksmen, who were expected to clinch a bagful of medals after the CWG success, he said, "Yes, the performance has not been up to the mark. Some of them are taking it easy and I know they are not focussed enough.
The selected athletes should understand that they are donning the country's jersey."
Turning his ire on the three shooters who fired blanks in three events, thus denting India's medal hopes, the coach said, "Three blank shots is unheard of. It happens once in one or two years. But Gurpreet Singh (rapid-fire pistol), CK Chaudhary (standard pistol) and Harpreet Singh (centre-fire) did it in a span of three days. These are seasoned shooters."
While Gurpreet and Chaudhary fired a shot each into the ground, Harpreet's shot went skyward, resulting in a straight 10-point loss in each category --- and with it vanished the hopes in the three team events. "Vijay Kumar's individual bronze in centre-fire saved our skin," said Thomas.