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Saturday tryst for shooting stars

india Updated: Aug 09, 2008 01:14 IST
Highlight Story

Anjali Bhagwat is usually reticent. Her teammate Avneet Kaur Sidhu, though shy, is jovial and rarely without a smile. Different in nature, they are bound by a common thread. Both have qualified for the rifle events at the Beijing Olympics and both are expecting a “good” show here. Their first event — the 10m air rifle —- begins on Saturday.

Samresh Jung is nonchalant and outspoken at times. Rarely does he call a spade by any other name. And like a shot from his pistol, he never wants to recall a word already fired. His 10m air pistol competition begins on Saturday.

Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Mansher Singh — one a fervent young shooter, the other a veteran of five Olympics (his first was in 1984) — are intrepid warriors who never flinch from staring down the barrel, in this case it’s their own shot gun. And they love shooting pigeons, made of clay.

Three different disciplines but there’s just one goal — a medal at the Olympics.

When tomorrow comes, this quintet will trigger India’s medal hunt, at the Beijing Olympics’s shooting ranges in Shijingshan District. With a billion hopes on them, by noon their intense training will yield a result. Wherever they stand, on the podium or off it — they are already heroes. At the Olympics everyone is. Haze or humidity, rain or heat the shooters are ready for the tryst with destiny.

Anjali and Avneet, who will be in the newly-built 10m air rifle hall, will be vying with China’s defending gold medallist Li Du and Co. for a medal. “Let’s see what happens,” said Anjali who has medals from World Cups, Asian and Commonwealth Games. “We have put in a lot of hard work. Hope we do well tomorrow.”

“One loose shot and you are gone,” said Sunny Thomas the National chief coach.

“In the women’s event there are at least 20 shooters who have scores of perfect 400,” said Thomas. However, as history shows, a score of 400 at the Olympics has never been easy. Anjali has best shots of 399 and in recent competitions she has been consistently shooting 396.

“So, it all depends on how our shooters and the others shoot,” Thomas said. Though he did not want to predict any medals in shooting, you could sense some optimism in him. “We had done well at practice in Hanover. The shooters were training for 8-10 hours everyday. Their practice should bear fruit.”

Avneet, as always, seemed unruffled by the occasion. “I am waiting for my competition,” she simply said after her final practice.

Samresh, however, has nothing to lose. “I never thought I would be at the Olympics. But here I am and let’s see what happens,” he said, after a practice session.

Manavjit, whose form of late has been a concern, too believes that all that matters is what happens on the day.

“I have been practising for 8-10 hours and am happy with my preparation,” said Manavjit after a last crack at the clay pigeons. “Now I have to put behind my preparation and think about the competition,” he said.

Though form has been a concern for him, the conditions are not.

“I have been here for the last 10 days and am comfortable with the hot and humid weather,” he said. “I am not worried about the conditions though.

And you never know, I might get my form back tomorrow,” he said.

Ronjan missed

Thomas WAS not happy Ronjan Sodhi was not given a wildcard.

“I think his form must have put some of the nations under pressure.

I knew there were quotas available but somehow I thought somebody was conspiring to keep him out,” said Thomas.

“He is the world record holder and I believe he should have been given a wildcard. I found out that they had a few.”