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Shooters set their eyes on gold

india Updated: Dec 02, 2006 03:35 IST
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The rain gods are not very kind in this part of the world. Parched countryside, palm trees lining deserted roads and absolutely no sign of water apart from the Corniche that has an overflowing waterfront.

The performance of the Indian shooters, too, has been a little similar over the years in the Asian Games. Compared to the Chinese, who have conquered almost everything — the performance of Indian shooters in this arena has been very ordinary.

Hopefully, the trend will change when the first shot is fired in the Al Lusail Complex, situated around 50 miles from the main city. There is a lot more hope this time as compared to the 1994 Asiad in Hiroshima when pistol prodigy Jaspal Rana shone.

India have been waiting for a hero since then as far as the Asian Games go. When Gagan Narang trains his air rifle on the target at the 10-metre range on Saturday, India will be hoping that the youngster from Hyderabad wins the country their first medal.

Earlier this year, Narang shot gold at the World Cup in Guangzhou, China and clinched a quota place for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Add to that the four gold medals he won at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and Narang is a good bet.

With rains here on Friday, the portents are good. And locals say showers here are a rare occurrence. 

National coach Sunny Thomas is in a happy frame of mind a day before D-day. "Tomorrow is a big day and four gold medals are up for grabs in the 10m rifle event," he said. But was quick to add: "My only problem is the absence of (world champion) Abhinav Bindra who withdrew because of a chronic back problem. Had he been there we would have been even stronger.

"Gagan (Narang) is in superb form and has got over his neck problem. And coupled with the fact that both junior world champion Navnath Fartade and PT Raghunath are doing exceptionally well, we are quite well-placed," said Thomas. "I know Navnath, he fires under pressure and that is his plus point. We have a very well-balanced team that can go the distance," he said.

Talking about the women shooters, Thomas said the squad was a blend of youth and experience. "We have Tejaswini Sawant, experienced Suma Shirur and young Avneet Kaur Sidhu. So it is a balanced squad and only a matter of clicking at the right moment," said Thomas.  "The only problem is that the Chinese and Japanese are just too good. At the Busan Asian Games, our women's team broke the Asian record while the Chinese ended up breaking the world record. That's how tough the competition can get," he added.

For Mansher Singh, who also starts his campaign in trap on Saturday, it would be in the fitness of things that he bags a medal. The seasoned shooter turned 42 on Friday. The veteran, who bagged silver behind world champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu at the Asian clay pigeon championship in Singapore not so long ago, is peaking again. Certainly, things look bright for the Indian shooters a day ahead of the real challenge.

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