It was a foregone conclusion that Indian shooters would call the shots in the 19th Commonwealth Games but the overall figures could have been a little better had it not been for the shotgun shooters' average show. The hosts have won 30 medals including 14 gold, 11 silver and five bronze medals in the games. Of those, only three came from the shotgun range.
Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra kicked off the campaign on a perfect note winning the 10-metre air rifle pairs event with a Games record, a day after Narang did a repeat in the singles event. A flurry of gold medals followed, but, as the competition entered its business end, the home shooters somewhat ran out of steam and failed to finish it off in a blaze of glory.
"It's a mixed feeling. The number of medals have increased from Melbourne but I wish the colour of the medal was different," said national coach Sunny Thomas. "We could have won four to five more medals going by the way the team was performing. But on the whole, I am happy," Thomas summed up the team's performance.
The shotgun team, despite the presence of double trap world record holder Ronjan Sodhi, former world champion Manavit Sandhu, junior world champion Asher Noria and one of the most experienced trap shooters in Mansher Singh, failed to win a single gold. Shotgun coach Mearceillo Fradi was, understandably, upset with the show.
"Overall I am happy for them but I have failed to satisfy myself," Dradi had said a few days back. One silver and a bronze on the final day would not be considered that bad a return if one talks of any other shooting contingent, but, by the high standards the likes of Narang, Tejaswini Sawant, Ronjan Sodhi and Samresh Jung have set for themselves, it surely was a misfire.
Heena Sidhu missed the gold by a whisker losing to Malaysian Pei Chin Bibiana by a difference of 0.3 points in the air pistol final, while Jung somehow managed to bag the bronze medal in standard pistol on the final day of the competition at the revamped Karni Singh Shooting Range. Narang, who was aiming to emulate Jung's feat -- the pistol shooter won a whopping seven medals including four gold in the Melbourne Games four years ago -- came a cropper in his final event.
Credit should go to Narang, though, for winning four medals all with Games record in his other events. The master rifle man had, after the event, admitted that work needs to be done on prone shooting. "I will cherish the wins, and learn a lot from the losses. I was struggling a little bit with prone shooting," said Narang.
Besides Narang, contributing to India's rich medal haul in a big way were pistol shooters Vijay Kumar and Omkar Singh. To say that the two were the finds of the competition would be wrong as they had been there for a while. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that the tournament was the coming of age for both the shooters.
Both Vijay and Omkar finished with very impressive haul of three gold medals and one silver. Gurpreet Singh's twin gold also needs special mention for the Navyman was not too long ago wasting his time in a Liberty shoe store. What makes the pistol shooters' achievements even more commendable is the fact that they had been training without a specialist coach for quite a while now.
"It's not ideal. A coach can plan strategies and the shooters' job is to concentrate on the shooting. But, in the absence of a coach, shooters have to do both. It's not that we don't need a coach if we keep winning medals," said Jung. Coming back to the shotgun shooters, there is little doubt that they have underperformed, barring Sodhi's individual silver in double trap and Manavjit's silver in trap. Thomas, however, was confident of a better showing from the shotgun shooters in the Asian Games. "In CWG, the shotgun field is very strong with teams like Australia in fray. But unlike rifle shooters, it's not going to be that difficult for them in the Asian Games," Thomas said.