The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) may have overlooked double-trap marksman Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for the London Olympics despite having the opportunity to swap a quota place, but the last word on the saga has not been said.
A crucial meeting between the NRAI president Raninder Singh and sports ministry officials is scheduled after Holi where a decision on the 2004 Athens Olympics silver-medallist's inclusion could be taken.
The NRAI advisor, Baljeet Singh Sethi, told the Hindustan Times that the (NRAI) president would "arrive after Holi for discussions and clarify any misgivings which the ministry might have". The NRAI had recently announced the squad for the Olympics in which it had eased out Army's Imran Hasan Khan, who had bagged the London quota in 50m rifle 3-position, and given it to 10m air pistol shooter Heena Sidhu based on 'current form'.
While Rathore was the favourite to get Imran's slot, as the Army wanted one Army man to be replaced with another, things did not pan out the way they were expected to for the Colonel.
Following the team announcement, the Army, backed by comparative scores of Rathore and Sidhu, wrote to the NRAI to reconsider their decision on Rathore. "My employers have written to the federation and the ministry, backed by scores of previous competitions," Rathore told HT. "The scores are there for everyone to see," he added.
An NRAI source said Sidhu, who hails from Patiala, was young and could find the Olympic stage too big to handle.
"Moreover, Rathore had severely criticised the Patiala shotgun ranges during the national trials and walked out along with a handful of shooters, because of which he fell out of favour with the federation president," said the source.
The incident had hogged headlines and subsequently Rathore and all others who had boycotted the Patiala trials were not included in the Commonwealth Championships squad in early 2010.
The official also agreed that on comparison, Rathore was more in line for London Olympic glory than Sidhu because the former was a multiple World Cup medallist and Olympic silver-medallist and shot a world record-equalling score in Kuala Lumpur two-and-a-half months back.
The federation might still be able to argue in Sidhu's favour, but what about the inclusion of a close aide of the NRAI president, Amarjang Singh, as shotgun coach for the London-bound squad, who was a non-entity till a year-and-a-half back but rules the roost today.