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National coach ‘favours’ shooter, draws NRAI ire

other Updated: Sep 16, 2010 23:43 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
National Rifle Association of India

The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has sought an explanation from National coach and Dronacharya Awardee, Sunny Thomas, on why he “favoured” a particular lady shooter during the trial to select the air pistol candidate for the forthcoming Asian Games.

Thomas, in “gross violation” of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) rules, allowed international shooter Shweta Chaudhary to shoot her 20 remaining shots after a break of a day following the “malfunctioning” of her pistol midway through the series on Wednesday.

The ISSF rule 6.12 says that, “If a shooter has a gun or ammunition malfunction, he may have it repaired or continue shooting with another gun with the permission of the jury…The maximum extra shooting time allowed to repair or replace a gun is 15 minutes. Shooting must be completed in the same relay.” In this case, an exception was made and Shweta shot over two days.

Thomas also took five other shooting officials into confidence at the Balewadi Range in Pune where the trials were held, but one of the officials — Wajid Ali — refused to sign as “International rules are very clear on the issue”.

“I was asked to sign but I didn't,” Ali told Hindustan Times from Pune.

Another official, Randhir Singh, who signed said, “I signed as an official,” adding “This is the first time I have seen such a thing in trials.”

The NRAI had arranged two special trials for Shweta and Sonia Rai — a World Cup bronze-medallist — at the 10m range on Wednesday and Thursday.

But Shweta complained after 20 shots on Wednesday that her pistol had malfunctioned. After being excused by Thomas, she left the range and came back the following morning to complete her remaining 20 shots.

Sonia's husband, Amardeep Rai who was a skeet shooter, said, “The trial wasn’t conducted within the framework of the ISSF rules. They are not selecting a school team but a team for the Asian Games where the country's reputation is at stake. The officials cannot frame a new set of rules.”

NRAI acting president, Avtar Singh Sethi, said, “I have visited and officiated the world over but not heard of such a thing. We have asked Thomas for an explanation why he favoured a particular shooter.”

A senior Indian jury member also said that such a thing is not permissible under international federation rules, adding that the five officials who went with Thomas’ decision were also guilty.

Thomas, when contacted in Pune, said, “It was not a competition but a trial to select the best member to don the India colours at the Asian Games. My endeavour was to provide ideal conditions for both shooters. Both are equally good, and I didn't want anyone to miss out because of equipment malfunction.” Shweta rushed to her hostel and brought another pistol, but by the time she came back, it was too late. So, she fired her remaining 20 shots this morning. We deducted the time she spent while procuring the new pistol and she fired her remaining 20 shots in 15 minutes.”

The Asian Games will be held in Guangzhou in November.