It all started with the 2004 Athens Olympics when double-trap shooter RVS Rathore gave India their first individual Olympic silver.
In the next edition of the Games, at Beijing, Abhinav Bindra, made the billion-plus Indians proud by clinching the country's maiden individual Olympic gold.
With the 2012 Games calling, there are higher hopes from the country's marksmen. After the Beijing feat, Bindra had said, "The mental barrier is gone and a new era has begun." With this positive attitude, the Indians will set their sight on London."The shooters are going to make the country proud. We have clinched eight Olympic quotas till now and most of them have come with medal-winning performances in the World Championship and World Cups," said world No. 1 double-trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi, who is currently training in Italy.
“This, in itself, speaks volumes about our strength. I’m hopeful that London will provide us the opportunity to win a number of medals,” added Ronjan.
World record holder in 10m air rifle, Gagan Narang, too is hopeful too. “I can’t say how many medals we’ll win, but one thing is for sure, we’re not going for the sake of participation. You’ll see everyone performing to their best,” said Gagan.
Before the Beijing Games, India had earned nine quota places, of which four had come by winning medals in qualifications events. For the London Games, six quota places have come through winning medals in different qualification events. One more qualification event — the Asian Championships in Doha in January — will provide India with an additional three to five quota places.
“Improvement in the standard of Indian shooting since the Beijing Games is visible. Abhinav made us believe that we too can win an Olympic gold. I had earned the 2008 Olympic quota by finishing 11th in a World Cup, but this time, I earned the London ticket by clinching gold in a World Cup. So, this adds to the confidence,” said marksman Sanjeev Rajput.
The new powerhouse
Annu Raj Singh not only created history by winning the first-ever Olympic quota, but also made a point that women pistol shooters could no longer be ignored. Her silver medal feat in 10m air pistol at a World Cup — which also earned the country a quota — was good enough to win gold in 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Abha Dhillon participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but that was a wild card entry.
After Annu Raj, Rahi Sarnobat (21) won a quota in 25m pistol, while Heena Sidhu and Anisa Sayyed missed the berth by a whisker. But they still have a chance in Doha. “The way women pistol shooters are performing, they’ll win a few more berths in Doha,” said Sarnobat.