India’s Olympic champion in men’s 10m air rifle Abhinav Bindra was in the elite group for almost 16 years. The rifle shooter began his Olympic journey in 2000, and reached the zenith by winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Games. He narrowly missed bronze at the Rio Olympic Games, which was his last international event.
Bindra was the most consistent national shooter in his event, and after his retirement, the question is who will step into his shoes. This will be on the mind when the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup gets underway at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges from Friday.
The men’s 10m air rifle is one of the events scheduled on the opening day, and the country’s top-three shooters Ravi Kumar, Deepak Kumar and Satyendra Singh, are in the fray.
The trio will be up against a formidable field comprising seasoned shooters like Peter Sidi of Hungary. The multiple-medal winner at the global level will be looking to add another feather in his cap.
The primary task for the Indians is to make the final --- the top eight from the preliminary round move up. Since the medal round starts from scratch, the qualifying result is not added. Hence, there’s equal opportunity to finish on the podium.
The tournament will open with the women’s 10m air rifle. Apart from the Indian team, all eyes will be on Iran’s Elaheh Ahmadi, who was a finalist at the Rio Olympic Games. Ahmadi’s compatriot Najmeh Khidmati is also in the fray.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has pinned its hopes on Vinita Bhardwaj, Megha Sajjanar and Pooja Ghatkar in 10m air rifle to give the country a good start.
The trio might be low on experience but are enthusiastic. NRAI chief Raninder Singh said, “We hope the youngsters are able to showcase their talent.”
In women’s trap, the focus will be on seasoned shooter Seema Tomar. Besides Seema, Manisha Kheer and Rajeshwari Kumari are in the team.
The Indians will be up against a strong field which includes Rio Olympic silver medallist Natalie Rooney of New Zealand and Spain’s world champion Fatima Galvez. Australia’s Leitisha Scanlan is also a contender for the title.