I firmly believe that in independent India, erstwhile Maharajas like Karni Singh and Randhir Singh ruled the sport of shooting.
Then came the transition from the feathered variety to moulded clay and the applauding public became a part and parcel of the sport, while earlier it used to be just fun and games for the elite in their backyards. That was the first phase of Indian shooting, which culminated with Randhir Singh’s bronze medal at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
The second phase of Indian shooting started in 1993, when, nearly after a decade, India once again was back on the world stage. From the lone silver (Mansher Singh) at the Asian clay championship in Manila in 1993 to the Olympic silver (RVS Rathore) in 2004, Indian shooters have travelled a long distance through uncertainty but with belief in their talents and skills.
Today, India has matured and become one of the leading nations in the world of shooting, taking one step at a time; getting a firm foothold and then moving on to the next one. Every competition is not only a valued experience for the players but an opportunity to further engrave our country’s name deeper in the minds of the sporting nations worldwide.
The year 2006 has seen India set another benchmark. After the glorious silver medal of Chilly Rathore at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the level of expectation from Indian shooters has really grown. And we definitely did not leave any doubt in anyone’s mind about the level of excellence we have achieved.
The vast talent in our country has surprised even the most cynical of critics at home. If pistol marksman Samresh Jung started it all in 2006 by being named the best sportsperson at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the rest have continued to perform with even greater passion.
And when it came to truly the biggest stage —the World Championships at Zagreb — with Manavjit Singh and Abhinav Bindra being crowned World champions, it was proof of their class and consistency. And yes, Chilly Rathore winning gold at the Cairo World Cup and Jaspal Rana proving himself again at the Asian Games, shows they are top-notch shooters.
What has been heartening is the way the younger lot has came good. Rifle shooters Avneet Kaur Sidhu and Gagan Narang winning quota places for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with two years to go, is a fantastic achievement.
Just look at this interesting bit of statistics. The year 2006 has seen over 20 shooters being ranked in the top 25 in the world, from almost none a decade back. We have made shooting the number one medal-winning sport for India. And I am sure, this trend is going to continue in the New Year as well, as for us, there’s hardly anything called “taking a break” from the ranges!
(The writer is current national double-trap champion)