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Royal sport reaches the masses

india Updated: Jul 28, 2006 23:29 IST
S Kannan

A Good shotgun today costs anywhere in the range of Rs 3 to 5 lakh, so that’s why trap shooting was always looked at as a sport for the royalty.

After the legendary Maharaja Karni Singh brought the nation glory, it was left to another man from the royal family to excel in trap. Randhir Singh, who shot to gold in the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games. In terms of sheer longevity, Randhir Singh was there for ages, before Delhi’s Mansher Singh blossomed.

But there was a vital difference. Mansher was not from a royal family, a sign perhaps of the nascent winds of change. He began his international career in 1982 during the Delhi Asiad, but 24 years later, Mansher still stands tall.

What is it that keeps this man going? “It’s just passion and each time I shoot, it’s for India,” says Mansher, who was part of the team that won silver at the Zagreb World Championship. Ask him about how tough it is to keep going without sponsors and he has several tales to tell.

After Mansher, if Moraad Ali Khan, Anwer Sultan, Manavjit Singh and Zorawar Sandhu have continued with trap, it is not just to keep the tradition alive. Moraad, Mansher and Manav were a very potent trio and ruled the roost at the Asian level in the mid-nineties before Moraad moved to double trap.

If one takes a look at the recent Indian trap participation at the Olympics, Mansher was there at Atlanta in 1996, Anwer at Sydney in 2000 and Manavjit in 2004 at Athens. Manavjit, the man who smashed his way to gold on Thursday in Zagreb has come this far because of the backing from father Gurbir Singh and his long hours at the Karni Singh ranges.

"There were times when lack of sponsorship was so frustrating. Ammunition shortage, huge costs for travel abroad and hiring a foreign coach meant a lot of money. I am lucky I now have sponsors,” said Manavjit.

And whom would he remember in this hour of glory? Well, it can be none other than Italian Marcello Dradi, the no-nonsense Italian coach. The best part about Dradi is that even though he has not been hired by the NRAI, most of the Indian trap shooters go to him and train in Italy.

And word has it that in Zagreb, Dradi coached not just Manavjit but also gave valuable tips to the other two. As a result, Manavjit and the Indian trap shooters stormed a bastion that was almost the exclusive domain of the Europeans.