In India, a sportsman’s life is not exactly cushy, and the road to success is still more challenging. It’s fraught with impediments often beyond the control of an athlete. Lack of finance is just one of the many hurdles, and shooting being an expensive sport, it is beyond the reach of most.
Pemba Tamang was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “If not for the Services, times would have been tough for us,” said the pistol shooter from Rupa in Arunachal Pradesh.
But luck seems to have deserted him. Despite winning medals at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games last year, he was not rewarded by his domicile state, Arunachal Pradesh. And though he's been shooting well, gold has been eluding him.
He did manage a team gold on Tuesday, but in the individual discipline, he had to be satisfied with a silver, losing to his Services teammate Mahavir Singh in the shoot-off after they had identical scores of 581 in the final.
Vijay Kumar finished fourth behind Samresh Jung. “The field cannot get tougher,” said Vijay, who won the team gold along with Pemba and Mahavir for Services.
Tejeswani Sawant shot her second gold, winning the women’s prone event with a score of 592.
“My mission this year would be an Olympic quota,” said a jubilant Tejaswani. “Winning here has given me a lot of confidence.”
Rajkumari Dodiya of Madhya Pradesh won the silver.
Avneet Kaur Sindhu, who failed to find a place on the podium, was listless and shaky, missing far too many shots. Has she been taking it easy after securing an Olympic quota place? “Not at all,” said the Punjab shooter who finished 10th.
“I can’t afford to lose focus this year,” she said with a shake of her head. “Even the scores aren’t flattering. I am not worried, though.”
When it comes to financial backing, her story is no different from the other shooters'. “Though I have signed a contract with Morna Sports Mangement company, I haven’t got a sponsor so far. Hopefully, I should get it soon as it would facilitate my training for the Olympics, where I would concentrate on air rifle."
Debut event raises interests
The main sports complex in Sarusojai was bustling with activity, on and off the field. As thousands marched up to the beautiful Indira Gandhi Stadium, hundreds of them diverted to the Lawn Bowls rink near the main gate. The debut event at the National Games has attracted as much attention as the other sports — so what if no one knew the technicalities of the sport!
The crowd gleefully watched three Australians imparting last-minute lessons to the players and officials. People were more curious about the Australians than the event, which starts on Wednesday.
“It's a Commonwealth sport and we are trying to promote it,” said Randhir Singh, the secretary-general of the Indian Olympic Association. “Hopefully, we'd be able to produce world-class players by the 2010 Commonwealth Games.”
At the behest of the IOA, the Australians — Richard Gale, Julie Kiosses and Barry Morphet — are here to help the organisers.
“This sport has become very popular among the corporate houses in Australia,” said Gale, a coach at the Lawn Bowls Academy in Melbourne. “Lawn bowl clubs are flourishing in Australia, and with a little more effort, perhaps the sport might make it to the Olympics.”
Gale feels that could be possible if the Asian sports powerhouses started playing it seriously. “China, Japan, Thailand and a host of Asian countries have already started playing it,” said Gale.
“We'll try to lobby for the sport to be included in the Asian Games,” said Randhir Singh.
The sport has over 100 professionals in Australia, earning over Au$150,000 a year. There are professional club leagues, apart from inter-state championships. “The sport will not die,” declared Gale.
Manipur on top
There’s no stopping Manipur — the state has now won 41 gold, 16 silver and 17 bronze, with complete dominance in wushu and fencing. With 14 gold in wushu, 11 in fencing, eight in taekwondo and five in cycling, Manipur has consolidated its position on the top of the medals table.
Services, with golds in shooting, equestrian (4) and athletics (3), have jumped to the second spot. Delhi are placed third.
Deepmala walks to record
Assam’s L Deepmala Devi set a meet record in the women’s 20km walk. Deepmala came home in 1:41:07.20 seconds to claim the gold medal. The previous record was held by Ravina Antil.
Delhi in tennis final
Defending champions Delhi humbled West Bengal 2-0 while Tamil Nadu pipped Maharashtra 2-1 to enter the final of the men’s tennis team event. Delhi also entered the final in the women’s event with a fluent 2-0 win over Karnataka.